Wednesday, October 23, 2013

I'll Say It All Here

I didn't really want to meet him for lunch. If he had something in mind other than an acquaintance and this interview, I wanted no part of it. I told him, through a text, that it was my treat if he'd meet with me.
The thought of meeting him, left me with hours of "build-up." Anxiety.  Incompetencey. Amateur writer attempts another interview.  My third, I suppose, if you count the one with The Cousin. And then, of course there's the thought, 'Does he just want sex?' 
In the day, the cute young girls were attracted to me. In the last few years, it's the men over 65.  
What are ya gonna do? It a slap of reality that I will most likely go to my grave not accepting. But I wore my Lucky Brand jeans anyway!  No, not because HE was going to get lucky, But because I was hoping to get lucky with my questions, lucky with opportunity, lucky to say it all here with a look at life through his eyes.
We were to meet at 1:00 p.m. I arrived at 12:45 p.m. and purposely chose a table in the sun. 
I felt way more confident with my sunglasses on.

HY:  You're early.

tpg:  For a change. Thanks for meeting me.

HY: What shall we have? Pellegrino? Large? Waiter. Please. 2 large Pellegrinos and what are today's specials?

His wrinkled shirt, which was tucked into jeans, was a neon lime green. I thought of 
over photo-shopped mint leaves.  He wore a baseball cap which smelled of stale cigars when the breeze hit it.
The waiter rambled off the Specials of the Day; first the appetizer, then the salad, then the entrĂ©e and finally, the dessert.  It's so fast, I couldn't recall one thing.

HY: Very good. Very good. Now, may I ask you a question?
(waiter nods)
How long does that take you? Every day, do you have to wake up and memorize the daily specials every day because they change, don't they?
(waiter holds a perplexed yet polite expression)

HY: So what shall we eat? (looking at the menu) I like the apple and pecan salad. What was the special? Halibut? Filet Mignon?

tpg: (panicking because I had offered to pay in exchange for his time.) The appetizer of squash blossoms stuffed with goat cheese (thinking it might the fucking cheapest special) sounds yummy.

HY: And salad? It's a nice day, eh?

tpg: Umm... Yes.
(waiter returns)

HY: We'll have the squash appetizer, pecan apple salad, Cobb salad and filet mignon, medium rare, salt and pepper only.

tpg: You're fast-moving. Do you ever slow down?

HY: Daytime. I sleep during the day and I paint all night. My neighbors think I'm crazy. They see my lights on all night and they think, "What's the crazy Japanese man doing now?" I don't care because I don't really talk to them. I don't really talk to people.

tpg: Yet, you're are here, talking to me.

HY: That's different.

tpg: Tell me about your art.

HY: My art. I studied art in Paris. Many, many years ago. My family, we are all characters and we all like to try new things. I only worked with oil on canvas in the beginning, then I changed to sculpture and pop art. I like color.

tpg: I looked at your work on-line and can honestly say I love the pieces of ink and paint on hand-made rice paper. I also love your laser project in Afghanistan.

HY: That was an experience.  I was approached to possibly re-build the statues but I didn't feel reproducing those ancient statues would be right. They're destroyed. Dynamited. There's only ghosts left. I wanted to bring awareness to this massive destruction of the 3 Buddhas of Bamiwam (Bamiyan) by the Taliban, while at the same time, use solar powered lasers to offer electricity, a few hours a day, to the people of the Bamiyan Valley who had none.

tpg: Wow! Was the project completed?

HY: (Laughing)  We completed it, but governments are corrupt. All of them. We couldn't come to an agreement on money, even after I had hosted fundraisers in Los Angeles. We are all sheep, you know.
(Food arrives)

tpg: Sheep? What do you mean?

HY: We are all sheep and all governments are the herders. It's intentional and it's always been that way since the beginning of time. You, me...We're not going to change it. Do you give money to bums?
I never do.

tpg: Yes, I do, but I prefer not to call them 'bums'. There's 2 in particular that I give some small amounts of cash to on a regular basis. One is a Vietnam vet. He stands in front of Home Depot in Seaside.

HY: There's always been poor. So much poverty. Never can we change that.

tpg: I agree, but it makes me feel good to give a little. Perhaps, it's self-serving.

HY: I did an 8-month project on Los Angeles Avenue years back. I lived on the street and hid a small camera in my clothes. I took black and white pictures of the bums, all the while, the mafia and drug lords would be in the fields and parking lots, watching. Waiting. I'd watch the bums spend every penny they got on drugs and alcohol.
I prefer people who work. I'd rather give to the men standing outside of Home Depot, the Latinos, who want to work. That's where I met my assistant 28 years ago. (He's eating and talking at the same time; half fork, half fingers.)

tpg: You met your assistant on the street?

HY: Yeah, twenty-eight years ago. (He pats his fist on his heart.) I trust him. When times are good, I pay him well. When times are not so good, he works for me for nothing.

tpg:  I dream of such a project like what you did; capturing life through photographs, gaining an understanding of the human condition. Where are these images?

HY: (laughing) We had an opening at a gallery in Los Angeles. Low turn-out. I think they're in one of my storage units in LA.

tpg: Do you have any children?

HY: Yes. Two daughters. You know we will all die with at least one regret and that will be mine.

tpg: What do you mean?

HY: I divorced their mother when they were very young because I wanted to travel the world, do my art, make money and I never saw my daughters or my wife. I was the father that never went to school plays or functions. The absent guy. My daughters never had the opportunity to know me. They hated me for a long time.
But now is Chapter 2.

tpg: Chapter 2?

HY: Yes. I have a second chance. I have apologized to them and have a pretty good relationship with them now. (laughing)  That is, when I can see them!  They are so busy, I have to make an appointment one year in advance!

tpg: Your art is very eclectic; oil on canvas, pop art, photography, ceramic cartoonish sculptures, posters, lasers. What are you working on now?

HY: I'm working on more canvases of ink on rice paper. You should see my living room! My living room is about 900 sq feet and it's a mess!! It's where I work.

tpg: What inspires you?

HY:  People. Yeah, I like to capture people and the actions of people.

tpg: I was blown away by your world-wide notoriety.  You must have the opportunity to meet many people because of your work.

HY: I hate people. Well, those people. The art world is like governments; crooked, greedy and pretentious.  They want me to sell at Christie's and to their private buyers and I won't. Most artists despise me. They think I'm stupid; a crazy recluse. I don't care. I value the apple tree that I've grown from a tiny seed more than any piece of art; theirs or mine.

tpg: Are you? A crazy recluse?

HY: (laughing) I'm here with you, aren't I?

HY: Check! (calling to our waiter) I'm going to meet a friend of mine in King City to look at a vineyard he purchased but hasn't seen yet.

tpg: Your friend bought a vineyard without seeing it?

HY: Yeah.  I've never been to King City. Have you?

tpg: (laughing) Ahh...yes. It's nothing to write home about!  Oh! And thanks so much for lunch! 

HY:  See you soon.



  1. Sounds like an interesting guy....a bit hyper perhaps!?

  2. I'm just wondering...will the guy you interviewed read this? It is interesting, especially since it appears HY doesn't give many interviews. A recluse who likes to capture people in his work. Puzzling... And he DID buy your lunch. What a mix of character traits. OK, you've caught my interest. Can you send me a link to his e-mail? Thanks. Actually, I think I enjoyed your intro of your personal thoughts, pre-interview, just as much as the interview itself. Carry on, TPG....we're reading!!

  3. Valerie, it is impressive to me that he allowed you to interview him, that he opened up to you in spite of being reclusive. It speaks of your ability to truly connect with people's hearts. I have enjoyed all your interviews, but this one was definitely intriguing. I appreciated that he is disdainful of the powerful people in the art world-it seems to me that power and fame are often the ulterior motive of so many...and in my mind, a true artist creates because he must, because he must do what he or she can to shed light on the human condition, to enlighten us. Thankyou Valerie for continuing to enlighten me; you are truly an artist. Love, Amy