Today at Tokyo Express they’re playing Hotel California!
Perhaps, you’re thinking, this hardly warrants an exclamation mark. And certainly, as far as The Eagles are concerned, their ubiquitous country-rock-blandishments have blown through cafés and creperies, canteens and curry houses around the globe.
But, you see, since the Express opened, some eight-ten years ago, I’ve been something of a regular, and always,
accompanying my tempura, was the nondescript etude for flute; always, some innocuous nocturne for piano and cello, some slight Schumann, foundering upon the designation, classical; always some discreet-Schubert, careful-Chopin, chummed, rendered, regurgitated and reduced for digestion.
But my point here is not to slag muzak. It is to point out what an abrupt change in aural backdrop can do—and I have to tell you, it rattled me.
I stood dumb at the counter, my mind Tiffany-twisted and Mercedes-bent, stymied at teriyaki chicken, puzzled by sashimi, flummoxed by maki, and when I turned to consider the Bento Box, I was hopeless, what sides, A or C, dumplings or sushi!?
Now, a mere hour later, I don’t recall what I ordered or what I ate. But I have furrowed my brow speculating upon what might have gone down behind the sushi bar.
What Kanji flew over the rice cooker and kicked over the Teppan-Yaki griddle? when that calcified radio dial was approached, and those Sirius satellites re-triangulated and the speakers—formed by years of decorum—jumped to their feet and bit into a slow-burn guitar duo—Joe Walsh on Telecaster sailing just beneath Don Felder’s 1959 Les Paul—searing harmony soaring high over the Baja.
What, I wondered, had come over Eito? Was it the warm smell of Kokura colitas he missed? Had he pined for the purple river that flowed through Kitakyushu, smelling the blossoms of his cherry boyhood, now suspended somewhere between California and Kokurakita-ku?
What dark highway, cool wind, mission bell of swelling memories finally rang? What ‘69 wine finally burst the skin?
For today at the Tokoyo Express in Oliver Square, Eito’s steely-knife is happily stabbing the imported tuna, as he senses his mental emancipation in that new frequency modulation.
Knowing, of course, that he can never leave…he can at least check-out any time he likes.