Thursday, June 12, 2008

Cracked Marble and Dresses


A-bombed Eucalyptus Tree at Hiroshima Castle


Today she kept whispering to herself, "I love Japan," as she rubbed her soft paper with black lumber crayons over the old Hiroshima Bank floors, cracked marble teller counters and walls. Somehow the bank withstood the A-bomb - one of the only buildings to do so - and was actually used as bank until 1992. She wonders why the security guard suddenly got angry with her at the bank as she was about to do another rubbing of the floor. He was the same one she photographed the week before and who had been so friendly and had given her approval today to do more rubbings. He angrily crossed his arms into a forbidding X and said, "too much time. too much time." She packed up her paper in her big black tube. Coincidentally, her favourite thrift shop - in the basement of BOOK OFF where lots of people read Manga books in the aisles - is directly across the street. After making seven rubbings of cracks, fissures, holes and a 1960 monument to HAIR from the Hiroshima Hairdressers Association, she finds 3 more incredible thrift shop dresses: a long denim industrial comme des garcons apron type dress; a bright orange cotton dress with shoulder pockets and metal buttons down the back and a full skirt; a foo-foo green and black cinched short dress with beige silk showing along the hemline. She can not believe her luck in finding so many dresses that actually fit her in Japan. She has a delicious sushi lunch at Nobu and takes a taxi home, feeling quite spoiled and accomplished.

She is struck by Ariel Dorfman's email - a forwarded piece published in Salon.com yesterday,
My Paulina, my country - During the making of a film about my exile from Chile, I finally met the anonymous woman who saved my life during Pinochet's murderous reign. She realizes that Chile is not Japan is not Germany is not Nicaragua - is not so many places that have been decimated, leveled, brutalized, torn apart and rebuilt upon the bones and blood and ashes of so many civilians - that each city, nation, body is historically specific and unique, and yet, there is a similar and familiar experience of these places: the need to mark history, to make visible the invisible, to make absence present, to remember and reconcile, to find hope in all the darkness, to realize the impossibility of representation and reconciliation, to witness the continuing trauma and aftermath - decades later. Some form of capitalism has taken root in every one of these places, a justification of expenditures (and profit) outweigh lives and truth. Perhaps it is only similar and familiar to a tourist, someone who did not live through the torture and atrocities - someone like her. She believes she would have the impulse to make rubbings of floors and walls and trees in Guatemala, Iraq, Vietnam and Chile, if she was there. She is anxious to get these rubbings into the darkroom to print through them like negatives, to watch the black become white and the white cracks and holes become black, a glowing dark ghost of a place, barely illuminated, but there and yet, not there.

She hasn't been carrying her cameras around with her. She just can't focus on more than one project at a time. So she misses some fabulous moments. Out of every 100 pictures she takes though, she only loves about 3. So maybe she isn't missing much but experiencing more.

The family takes a taxi from the YMCA to Senda Park, a park they haven't been to before, to meet Emi and Myles - a beautiful Japanese woman from Hiroshima, married to a Burmese man in the States, who teaches Japanese at MIT and her 2 year old son - for a picnic. Myles turns 3 tomorrow. They are thrilled to discover that this is a new park with an expansive playground - no rusty or broken steel pipes, no puddles beneath the swings and no cat poop at the base of the slide ladders. This playground has extremely long and curving slides that roll, a rope tunnel, swings, stone funnels and cones for climbing, bridges, wooden hills and more. They eat sandwiches and bento boxes, plums, pretzels and apples. All of sudden Myles is nowhere to be found and they all start to panic, but especially Emi. "Myles! Myles!" They all shout. Guthrie is told to sit tight on top of the hill with Harper as the three adults go on a wild and hysterical hunt. Emi calls 911 and then David finds him - all the way across a huge soccer field, wandering up the stairs. David and elin had never seen such fear on anyone's face as they had seen on Emi's. They all hugged and caught their breath and went to play ball. Myles had no idea that anything out of the ordinary had happened. They all sang happy birthday to him and then took a taxi home for a bath and orange and strawberry sorbet.


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