C for Character. I’m not sure why I’m drawn to grime. I always have. Even as a primary school kid, my favorite comic book was about this short ugly man who lived in a tiny, dimly lit room of a traditional Japanese house surrounded by modern skyscrapers. It was like a cartoon version of Notes from Underground by Dostoyevsky. I love the atmosphere of the original Blade Runner, especially the Asian restaurant where Harrison Ford had dinner. In high school, I saw Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America and Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, and fell in love with New York. That’s why I’m here. If I liked cleanliness, I would’ve stayed in Japan.
I love looking at the hundreds of layers of paint and posters on the walls of buildings. New York has so much history and so many stories you can touch and feel. Similarly, I like the grime in dirty restaurants. Somehow I feel comfortable in it. Something about it makes me feel alive. In a dirty restaurant, we tend to drop our pretense and talk about things that truly matter to us. We express ourselves more honestly.
Human relationships are messy. Love is ugly. Life is unfair. These layers of grime, over the years, build our character. At the very bottom of this pit is where we see gods and saints. Heaven doesn’t need a god.
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