‘Time to go to another place, Mr. Shah”

Nana politely releases me and bids me goodbye, extracting a promise from me to return to London Carrot the next time I am in town. And she asks me for my address, telling me that she would write me a Christmas card.

All the girls are lined up at the exit, and bowing, bid us goodbye, domo arigato and sayonaras are exchanged and we are out back on Tokyo street.

Most everyone excuses themselves, leaving me alone with Sugimoto and Oniki. They hail a cab. We are in Ginza, which is the south east part of the city, the cab is to take us diagonally across the city to the north-western Shinjuku. The cab drops us off in a quiet residential neighborhood. Not much going on. I see a couple of rundown buildings that are being renovated and their construction work is blocking the way to where they want to take me. We walk around the construction and enter a very narrow, dark and dingy entrance, which reminds me of the crumbling old tenement buildings of Bombay. The cage like tiny elevator takes us to the third floor and delivers us in a strip of a dark hallway.

Another hostess bar. But this one is dark and dank. Even a bit sleazy. Hostesses are not as pretty  or as nicely dressed. They are still restrained and polite in the Japanese way. They serve  you and keep company with you. But then when their turn comes, they rush to the stage. In addition to being a hostess bar, it’s also a small cabaret. The girls preform comedy skits on the little squeezed-into-the-corner stage. They are more sparsely dressed than their sisters at the London Carrot and from the frequent and what I perceived to be lecherous laughs from the crowd, tell dirty jokes. It all goes over my head of course, except the lewd physical motions that accompany their speech. From what I can tell, they are pantomiming various acrobatic contortions of the sexual positions. The one I still remember is three of them huddled together in a chorus moving their hands made in the fists that come out of their crotches and move upward in vertical  rainbow, suggestive and jerking their fists as if masturbating a giant cock. And then they would look at each other and burst out in lewd laughs. The place is crowded with flesh pressing against flesh. By then I can hardly keep my eyes open, let along pretend to enjoy the show. By the time the editors drop me off at my hotel, it’s past three in the morning. I hit the sack. Feeling I’ve had enough education in the rituals of the night life in Tokyo.

Switching back to the gentler of the two clubs, towards the end of the year, I receive a Christmas card in the mail bearing a postage mark of Tokyo and on the top left of the envelope is the red rubber stamp of London Carrot.

© Haresh Shah

Illustration: Celia Rose Marks

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Next Friday, May 9, 2014

FOR THE LOVE OF MARY JANE

When I arrived in America in 1968, pot smoking was already around, especially amongst the young and the “hip”. Something I never got into, other than having tried it here and there as I would a menthol cigarette – without inhaling. Honestly:). While it was still a hush-hush backroom and the campus phenomena in the east, when I arrived in Southern California some years later, it was offered openly and abundantly at most of the parties. Fresh, dynamite and homegrown!

 

 

 

 

 

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