Just before Christmas I always go out looking around at the Christmas world, and to me, there’s no place that makes Christmas better, that makes the scene more completely, than the dime stores. Whenever a kid goes out to Christmas shop, he doesn’t go to Bonwit Teller when his entire budget for six people is forty cents, he immediately goes to the dime store.
Woolworths and Kresge were my big areas of dealing and I was figuring it out for a month or so before Christmas. Figuring out what would really make the house complete, somehow that would make my mother’s life sing! I’d go to the dime store and look things over.
I’ll tell you what I did one Christmas. I had my eye on a thing one time. I saw this perfume atomizer. It was a silver one. It was glass but it had silver inside of it and it was vaguely frosted on the outside. Now that I think about it, it must have been one of the world’s worst-looking things Woolworths ever handled. It had a rubber bulb on it that was sort of jonquil yellow, and it squeaked like a little rubber mouse when you squeezed it, Ah-eeeek ah-eeeek. That showed that it really had a lot of suction and a lot of power and would blow a lot of perfume.
This was maybe two or three weeks before Christmas and I had to debate with myself a lot because it was a tremendous investment. They had other atomizers there for fifteen cents, they had a couple of them for twenty cents, and I was looking at the high-priced line on the middle shelf there. Twenty-five cent atomizers. It was a full quarter. Yeah, it was going all the way—it was a quarter.
I kept going past and looking at this thing on the shelf. They also had some red ones, and they had a blue one, let me tell you, that would make your eyeball sweat, it was so blue. I don’t know where they got that blue. But somehow, the silver one with the yellow bulb was it. It had a yellow hose on the side, and the top was imitation gold, and I kept looking at this thing. And finally I decided—well, okay. And I’m in town with my brother, and my mother and father are going somewhere and they said, “Look. We’ll meet in front of Minuses. You be there immediately! Don’t get lost, because we don’t want to have to go searching around through the dime store for you. Exactly at eight o’clock in front of Minuses, you hear?”
Okay, we go off. Randy has a full thirty cents to spend, and as I was older, I have forty-five cents. I am going all the way out, and immediately I make a B-line for the cosmetics counter and false eyelashes. You aught to see Woolworths’ false eyelashes. They’re great, I’ll tell you that.
I’m looking around. I have to do one last survey of the scene to make sure that this atomizer is really what I want to get. So I go looking over the thing, and I look back and forth, and okay, I’m gonna pop.
Inspired by the elegance of some Japanese wood-block-printed books, including some erotic ones, especially by Hokusai and Utamaro, I made one of my own, a non-explicit one.
In New York City’s midtown area there was a large emporium, Takashimaya, a Japanese store full of varied household objects, including many Japanese-language imported books and magazines. I discovered that many middle-age Japanese men have strong sexual feelings for pre-adolescent girls (“Lolitas”) and many Japanese magazines cater to that, full of photos of innocent, partly clad young girls. I also discovered that one can buy blank, traditional, Japanese-style books in the same format as the woodblock-printed books.
I put those two discoveries together and created my own Japanese-style erotic book—my abstract layouts of photos cut from a couple of those men’s magazines. Playing with the viewer’s mind by cropping in ways that disguise the original subject matter, designs that only suggest erotic content, but are not in any way outwardly salacious–original photos aren’t from any explicitly erotic body part–just from backs, arms, shoulders, etc.
It’s a kind of homage to Japanese woodblock books in general and to those more elegantly done examples of shunga in particular. The title is a play on Hokusai’s “Views of Mount Fuji.” In fact, for me, I see the book as a playful exercise in abstract and evocative page design. The material is viewable for “general audiences.”
Front Cover and a couple of pages from my homage,
concluding with the final, surprise page design.