Periodically, usually twice a year or so, in various locations around Tokyo, Yokohama and Kamakura, the D and I will host an event. In the whirl of work and every day living, of catching the train, getting off the train, getting back on the train, of tapping the same old keys on the computer screen, walking back up the hill and getting into bed; getting up again, putting on the coffee, washing the coffee pot, getting back in the shower and ironing your shirt, checking your workbag and plugging in your phone, clocking in at the office, months and months can go by living in your own little world without catching up with people. I am a solitary creature in my own way and definitely do need my space ( we both have entirely different work schedules and basically only properly see each other three days a week), but you can get into a pattern of routine and repetition that can start to feel like plaque building up in your mental arteries. It is at this point that I find I just need to say ENOUGH, gather up all my friends with me and dance.
Duncan and I in fact met each other for the first time at a party, and, being the decadent hedonists that we ultimately are, have been creating fun, immersive, sense-surrounding parties together ever since. Though I also enjoy meeting friends a couple of times a month in restaurants and Japanese izakaya – the much healthier and more conversation-conducive version of a pub (where you can actually sit down and eat good Japanese food rather than just eating crisps and knocking back the pints standing up); as well as also having the occasional dinner party at home from time to time, ultimately, for me, I think you can’t beat the excitement, energy and liberating dreaminess of a dance party.
And we definitely do know how to throw one. We go all out. When we have hit on a theme, which usually comes spontaneously upon walking into a new venue – we both love strolling and exploring the city, trying this street and that corner and then ooh what’s that place up there… that place with the light in the window, then it’s time to build the soundtrack: think decoration, costume, guests, invitation design. Suddenly the workaday grid recedes; inspirations rise up, and a creative fever is again ignited. Some parties work; others don’t, but it never stops us from wanting to keep doing them. I can imagine a zimmerframe geriatric rave some day in the future, octogenarian old dears tortoising about the dancefloor with walking sticks and glass eyes ( “Oh, I remember this one……..”) My parents still dance with their friends, my great aunt was a showgirl, so I know I am in good hands.
Looking back now ( as I sit here knowing I have to get ready for work but feel like writing this first), reminiscing on our shared ‘festography’ of twenty years I see, to my mirth, that the first party we held together, in 1995, was entitled Nervous Exhaustion And General Debilitation; a small, appropriately named house party chez nous to ‘celebrate’ my twenty fifth birthday in London, where I happened to be going through quite a dark period of post-university what-to-do maelstrom and no idea what to do with my life. In some ways that period was my low point, so there was lots of Jacques Brel and other miserable wintery, Amsterdam canal-side music, and though I enjoyed it myself, I can’t entirely vouch for the other guests. My mood does rather intend to dictate the proceedings.
We have had a couple of other parties in London as well, including the slightly weird Facebook In The Flesh a couple of years ago, for which we invited people from all aspects of our lives from the present and past, people who had never met each other before, except perhaps in the form of electronic social media, and bunged them all together in a theatre bar in North London. For that one, I made the honourable, but unworkable, mistake of surrendering my control-freak tendencies regarding the music and went for a ‘bring your own’ policy that for me personally was quite disastrous: people constantly ejecting and inserting their own cds into the player and never achieving the flow and pull I want from the best party soundtracks (at the next event we are splitting the work with two other DJs for an injection of freshness). Although some great connections and friendships were forged between people that evening, I found that party a bit of a stress.
I did smell great, though, I must say, as I had planned my scent aura days in advance. Staying at Duncan’s parents’ house in Norwich I had decided on a rose, oudh, and patchouli theme which I then executed delightedly with militaristic precision. Clothes, washed and perfect smelling in advance. A long, and very languorous bath late morning using Cussons Imperial Leather soap (great as a starting board for any perfume you want to put on later), and then oodles of patchouli essental oil floating and shimmering in the bath water to settle gently on the skin and be ready in perfection, hours later, for the ensuing night’s events. Then: significant amounts of strategically placed Montale Aoud Rose Petals, on body and clothes, with a ‘subtle’ undercoating of Aoud Lime in certain places for added raunch, but never overcoming the glorious smell of Turkish Delight that I managed to evince when the aromas finally coalesced together much later that evening ( I am sure I actually killed people on the train carriage going down, but never mind ). The efforts I put into smelling good for that party created a scent that got me masses of compliments (oh my god what is that perfume ?) and that will now form the olfactory soundtrack, in my mind, of that strange evening forever.
No, the best parties have all, to be honest, been here in Japan. Starting with Tenshi 2000 in 1999 (angels and celestial beings to celebrate the new millennium, an event with way too elaborate costume changes: I can still see me and one of my friends in kimono, long white wigs and Venetian masks drunk, literally caught up in the wires behind the DJ booth unable to move or come out to our planned performance to the music from Close Encounters Of The Third Kind), the brilliant Voodoo followed, for which Duncan created an unbelievable ‘altar,’ and which featured an actual earthquake in the real world during the party that could have led to a veritable disco inferno with all the candles we were burning; Petrushka, a far more innocent and magical affair that I wrote about recently in my review of Equus Lalique; You’ve Got To Say Yes To Another Excess in honour of Helen and her partner when they came to Japan for the first time; Red, in which I sprayed the whole club and its velvet banquettes with Guerlain’s Habit Rouge and L’Heure Bleue; the Hitchcock homage Birdland (Duncan dressed up as a giant crow); Death Of An Infanta/Strangers In Paradise (dark, funereal classical piano concert by my friend Yoko and I, followed with a light and twinkling after party in a nearby restaurant); Baked Alaska (a big middle finger to Sarah Palin); Bomb The Boudoir; Kirsch (an ode to the cherry and our adventures in Berlin); the sweltering, delirious Delicious Banana (which I described at length in my piece on Gorilla Perfume’s Ladyboy); Crocs Of Gold (hilarious summertime alligator party in Yokohama); The Rite Of Spring, Firecracker, and many may others. What links them all is atmosphere; a slow build up, always a build up; wonderful friends all dressed up and ready to party, and then, eventually, an explosion of booze-soaked pop and fun where reality is left entirely behind and, hopefully, indelible, future memories created. For me, these gatherings work as markers of time passed, and vivid ones, something to share, dance, live.
In truth, though I really enjoy my teaching job in many ways – the interaction with kids, the imparting of knowledge and helping students to get into their dream colleges, the positive power that giving encouragement can produce; the adrenaline of it all – and enjoy the financial stability in gives me, despite the many accumulative stresses, I know I am a person essentially who is always reaching up to more to touch the beyond; in art, music, perfume, nature wherever: the dreariness of the world and its money-obsessed, zomboid and brainwashed surrogates is simply unacceptable to me after a while. As is the rigidity of the Japanese education system. I get so damn BORED with those textbooks. And the western world. The unthinking materialism. The received ideas. The media-created, Simon Cowell TV hell crassness (thank god we don’t have a television, actually). Duncan is the same. We need poetry. We need beauty. To just escape. Even if it means growing old disgracefully. I don’t care.
The last party we had, in June 2013, was an homage to the Madagascar trip that never was to be , Music For Chameleons: a fine, exotic and rainforest-humid event, foretelling our eventual, and incredible, journey through Java that did manage to achieve something quite oneiric and otherworldly, though I do say so myself. Coconut incense drifting; birdsong everywhere; me (in Vaniglia Del Madagascar and Yves Rocher Noix De Coco), and D wandering about in giant chameleon masks (the man is an absolute whizz at creating whatever props are need from all manner of sources from fleamarkets to 100 yen stores); chameleons on a video projector slithering all over the walls…..it was a lot of colourful, junglish fun: sly and sensual, red: gold and green.
Next up, though, and entirely different, coming this Sunday – really bad timing actually, considering that is happening right before exam season ( b a d t e a c h e r alert !!!!! ) is our upcoming winter event to welcome in 2014: SEXUAL EMERGENCY . This was an idea that I got based on a ridiculous poster I saw in Berlin for some underground sex club two years ago or so: the name really stayed with me as it tickled me (the idea of people getting that het up about a bit of rubber): and so here we go: our first overtly ‘erotic’ dance party, to held in a small place in Ebisu, Tokyo over a period of twelve hours. It’s going to be hot, it’s going to be heaving, we’ve got ourselves some cabaret acts, a sartorial theme: (‘dress…..is less’), and a raffle (some hilarious unmentionable ‘prizes’ to be given away in a prize draw), plus a hot and sizzling soundtrack that I hope will genuinely people in a bit of a tizz. Last week, while still on winter break, we went for a New Year stroll to do some pre-party reconnaissance in the markets of Ueno; old-school, downtown Tokyo, with plenty of kinky shops for lingerie, masks and the like, and came across a bizarre shop (non-sexual, in intention I believe) for military enthusiasts. Now, I am the last person to be interested in guns, and war, and all the fetishistic accoutrements that go with it, in fact I loathe such mindsets, but, perversely, we both did find it intriguing and extremely amusing to be in such an alternative world, a place surrounded by gun geeks, weirdos and combat specialists, all looking so intently and avowedly at the somewhat disturbing products on offer (the clattering sound of machine gun fire from U.S military documentary videos as a backdrop) that before you could say bob’s your uncle there I was in the changing rooms trying on full military gear and a gas mask. So strange to transform yourself in this way, so anti-intuitive and yet peculiarly……er, stimulating actually, especially when D then also insisted I try on some jack boots….
That was me sorted out anyway. It was all soon taken to the cash register, both of us unable to resist laughing, to the obvious consternation of the assistants and the deadly serious, grenade toting customers. This is certainly a ‘look’ I have never tried before but will undoubtedly relish once I get going, but the far more pressing question right now is to be honest WHAT SCENT?
Over the last few months I have been wearing nothing but orientals; thick, cosy Bal A Versailles, which I have been basically obsessed with; Guerlain Tonka Impériale and Spiriteuse Double Vanille; natural perfume Florascent Tonka, and of course that old winter chestnut Shalimar parfum, with just the occasional spritz of Tom Ford Grey Vetiver on my coat for an interesting, fresher, contrast. Like most perfume freaks I feel this is the precisely the time for these scents that act as a kind of furred, second skin; a barrier against the cold (its’ getting freezing here this week, and the Japanese heating systems are entirely inappropriate for it). Somehow, though, I don’t want to be warm and fuzzy, vanillic and cute in my pervy outfit (‘hey there cuddly soldier, you cheeky odalisque!): no, I want a bit of real, manly raunch. Fierce, macho. But the kind of macho I can take and actually revel in, which doesn’t include many scents, to be honest. All standardized ‘men’s colognes’ are utterly out of the question; the dime a dozen citrus woody acrids – I would be forced to shoot myself with my fake plastic shotgun. Ouds are possible; so is patchouli, vetiver, and especially leather. Should I be raiding my Amouage sample box for some of that hairy Arab bliss? Getting out my vials of Sécretions Magnifiques? Smother myself in a bit of Jovan Musk For Men? I think I have probably narrowed the selections down, in fact ( I want to reek, to spray the uniform in advance ) to either Ungaro Pour Homme with its sweaty, animalic patchouli lavender, Azzaro (ditto), Kouros – an old, rank, sexy favourite – or perhaps more likely, and the main contender right now, vintage Givenchy Gentleman, one of my holy grails of masculine with its prolonged, aromatic patchouli and leather (on me, not the least bit gentlemanly I can tell you; the question is : with, or without, deodorant?) The contrast between my fabric-softened, fresh-shampoo olfactory work persona and the thought of this weekend Tokyo weirdo stomping stench amuses me. I want to delve into something, into unchartered, presposterone territories. I want my scent to rise up on the dance floor mingling with other bodies; my real smell, and a perfectly chosen perfume. I want the chosen scent to throb.
The party theme may be ironic, but I don’t know, when we are all there, boys and girls getting down on the dancefloor, I have a feeling, and a hope, that something will get loosened, that despite the inevitable hilarity of the theme the event should hopefully create, that underneath it all something quite genuinely warm and sexy will transpire. So is the Givenchy the correct choice, in your view, or do you have any other suggestions?
I have only two more days left in which to choose…..