Sesame Street…

…ok bear with me.

I grew up on Sesame Street, well not actually ON Sesame Street, but watching it as a kid. I have 4 younger siblings, spread in ages across 12 years. So Sesame Street was on our family TV for a decade. It didn’t change heaps over the years, but I definitely got “old school” Sesame Street (think: 70’s era View Master – “Day at the Zoo”) and my youngest siblings got new updated versions, but all still quite familiar. Even my own kids watched DVDs of Sesame Street, both the oldest and newest seasons and I was glad to see it hadn’t actually changed that much over the years.

One segment that really made an impression on me was “Bus Ride”. It was a view from a child getting on a local bus, and traversing the boroughs of New York City, that I gathered where Sesame Street was located nearby. What the child saw out the window were typical New York City scenes, storefronts of all kinds, bodegas, one after another, people of all walks of life and skin tones playing basketball and running around at the park, playing in fountains, jump-roping, high-rise project housing, steam coming from the streets, a groovy soundtrack, sunlight filtering into the landscape unlike it did in my suburban neighborhood a million miles away in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Everything looked sorta familiar, like things you might find in any kids’ world view, but it was exotic too. So many different colors of kids and people. It was all mixed up in a way my world wasn’t exactly. “Where is this place?!” I must have thought. “Where can I “Come and play” where “Everything’s ‘A-okay’”, where “Friendly neighbors there, That’s where we meet”… “Can you tell me how to get…How to get to Sesame Street?”

New York City.

Now there is no amount of time or paper or personal knowledge or experience (despite having visited a handful of times) that would allow, or even justify, writing anything of actual substance on New York City, but what I wish to say is that it’s been piquing my curiosity my entire life. I wanted to be a part of that neighborhood tapestry of the Bus Ride. I always thought I would fit into a life on a brownstone stoop, where people I would know, and maybe didn’t, would walk by every day and spark some interaction. That would be the life for me: people everywhere, of all kinds and types and color and places, and I’d meet them all, and even be one of them. I did have that vision for myself as a youngster. There was one actual point in my life, when my direction forward wasn’t very clear, that I packed everything I owned into a van and decided to move to NYC, almost in secret. I would just wind up there I thought, fall in love with it, find a niche, and never leave. Well, I made it only about 150 miles of the 2000 mile journey i had to go to get there, when I busted down on the side of the road in South Dakota, where I bizarrely ended up staying for half a year, completely, and delightfully in a way I suppose, derailing my New York City aspirations. By the time that half year had passed, rather than venturing onward east, I went back west on another adventure, where I ended up locking into a world that inadvertently rendered dreams of NYC as slightly faded, and onto the “someday” category of my bucket list. In a way, I feel it was the city that I never got to live in.

Fast-forward a handful of twisty-turny years and I found myself, still bright-eyed and bushy tailed, in some neighborhood of Tokyo that nobody including myself had ever heard of 20 years ago, called Shimokitazawa, where just a few days ago, after having lived here or near here for so long, I was approached by an on-the-street TV crew about what I was doing there, where I explained to them (like I have done many times here on Tokyo Record Style) that with Shimokitazawa, or “Shimokita” as we call it, or sometimes just “Shimo” that it was love at first sight. The first time I had laid eyes on it, I witnessed streets filled with people and color and sound (as they remain today), though all or mostly Japanese denizens, they’re of all manner of color and style and walk, and storefronts of every kind, and little tiny streets where cars could not fit, with life ON the streets, with murals on the train underpasses, and sidewalk cafes, and every other person seeming to have a guitar on their back, a book in their hand, or dragging a wagon of records, or with some other accoutrement that made them all curious to me. Familiar faces met and chance encounters happened all around me, and I began to recognize that it was a little village, a little burrough of Tokyo, seemingly unlike anywhere else I had already visited in that initial 10-day visit to Japan. It was in that moment that I thought to myself, “This could be that NYC chance that had I missed … I’m not sure about Tokyo on the whole, but there is something in this village of Shimokitazawa.” So yeah, 20 years later, I’ve come to know so many characters in the neighborhood, some grouchy, some big-birdish, some more muppety than human, and if I don’t know them, I meet them and we encounter each other again and again, so many charming little vignettes burned to my memory, maybe you could say I found a Sesame Street in Tokyo.

Finally, I can get to Yasu-san (and his pal “Cheer the Rock” who will be featured in the following post) two characters (to be sure) that I met in Shimokita a few weeks back, approached because they were carrying record store bags, complete strangers that, after an amazing high-energy 30-minute conversation on the street, made me feel like my world just got a little smaller, yet again. Oh this charming little village! Yasu was soooo friendly and we talked about all kinds of music and our shared love of bringing people together through events and community. Yasu told me he has actually been hosting a DJ event called “音楽室” [Music Room] since November of 2000 (!!!) on every 2nd Sunday of the month at “Shibuya Ball” for 23 years and has held 260+ events so far! He said that all genres of music are played from Blues, Soul, Funk, Disco, Jazz, Reggae, Rare Groove, and Latin, and the event has evolved into a style that incorporates a wide range of “recent curving black music,” in his words. From time to time, he invites guest DJs, MCs, and LIVE performances that match the mood of the event. He added that the event “strives to provide music selection and hospitality that both first-time participants and music enthusiasts can enjoy.” Wow! We should all go! Here are the details:

Held on the second Sunday of every month
Venue: shibuya BALL
Open: 18:00-24:00
Entrance: 1500yen/1D
(Early bird discount 1000 yen/1D until 20:00)

Thanks for letting me go off here on a long Sesame Street New York City rant before finally getting to Yasu. And thank you deeply and sincerely, Yasu san, for some much warmth, kindness, and Tokyo Record Style encouragement on the streets of Shimokitazawa! Happy to know you and look forward to meeting again!

More TRS on the way. (Next up, Yasu’s pal, “Cheer the Rock!” …hopefully much more concise)

Azure – Mama Used To Say
Label: Ocean Trax – OCN 007
Format: Vinyl, 12″
Country: Italy
Released: 1998
Genre: Electronic
Style: Disco, House

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