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me with you (kissy drawing #68) | charcoal on paper

Love in This Club (2008)
Lately, drawings like the one above have been dancing all over my brain. I’ve been waking up with fingers full of whimsy, freedom-kissing my pillow with this commercially manufactured lovey-dovey feeling rumbling in my gut like an amebic invasion. Coincidentally, my inbox has been positively blooming with floral propaganda. Valentine’s Sale! A Dozen Roses starting at $40! (shipping not included). Here in Bogotá, a dozen roses will cost me about $5. Now, I know that true love is measured by the amount of money spent, but that means here I have to buy about eight-dozen roses just to begin to prove that my love is true. Of course, to flaunt how much love fills this heart, I’m gonna have to think different – roses are passe and Shorty wants an iPhone 5.

What’s Love Got to Do With It (1984)
Like I said, we Americans value our love – apparently more than Colombians do. As usual, we’re Number One (with the exception of affordable health care where we’re #37). And, man, let me tell you, when it comes to commercializing love… we’ve got nothing on the Japanese. They’ve not only adopted our Valentine’s Day with the chocolate and the flowers and the self-questioning that comes with not having a Valentine, but they’ve one-upped us. In Japan, on Valentine’s Day, the girl shows her love for the boy, then exactly one month later, on March 14th, there’s White Day, where the boy shows his love for the girl. Freak-ing brilliant. And I’m pretty sure there’s some irony there, when a people who aren’t known for outwardly showing their love have two holidays devoted to it.

A Big Hunk O’ Love (1959)
Wanna know a little more about love in Japan? Yeah you do. In Japan, there are hotels where you can rent rooms by the hour, appropriately called “Love Hotels”. Designed to allow customers to be discreet, there’s no receptionist or staff in the lobby and you rent your room at an electronic kiosk that takes cash. And let me give you a word of warning about the Love Hotel: they’re effing awesome. You will not want to go home.

First of all, in Japan, hotels 1) are not cheap and 2) charge per person. And some hotels only offer a Japanese style room, which means a futon on the floor. Have someone else staying with you? Simply add another futon and the price of another guest to the bill. At a Love Hotel, no matter the size of your Love Party, it’s one price.

Secondly, many of the hotels are themed, as in theme-park. You’ve got a Disney theme, a Downton Abby theme, a Pokemon theme, all sorts. The rooms come equipped with dimming lights, a giant bed, a giant television, and a Playstation. There are vending machines, one with alcoholic drinks, another with snacks, and another with costumes. Yeah, costumes. I told you these things were awesome. Then, you get to the bathroom and there’s a jacuzzi for two with complimentary bubble bath. There’s a waterproof surround sound system within arm’s reach of the tub and above hangs a disco ball. Complete with colored lights, that baby spins. While traveling through Japan, I gave up on the traditional hotel whenever possible. What can I say? I’m a sucker for a disco ball.

That’s the Way Love Goes (1993)
One more thing about Japan, about 72.6% of the group conversations I had were completely awkward. Like, no one speaking for minutes at a time, just a staring-at-the-floor-fidgeting-sweat-trickling-down-the-ribs kind of awkward. And if you want to invoke one of these moments at a Japanese dinner party, tell everyone (in your crappy Japanese) how awesome Love Hotels are. Try to convey your ardor for the spinning disco ball above the bubble bath jacuzzi and the genius of a beer vending machine in the bedroom. Oddly, there are no passionate “me too”s; no one shares your affection for vended costumes. Wearing your heart on your sleeve, as you profess your love for the Love Hotel, the entire table will look down, sitting in edgy, inelegant silence. You will stand alone, unloved and unlovable. You’ll be aware that the language of love is not universal and the true love of others can be difficult to earn. And, like a jilted lover, an idea will slap you across the face: if being deserving of another’s love actually requires mutual understanding, daily giving and constant effort, then a single day, a dozen roses (shipping not included), and an iPhone 5 are a small price to pay.

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