"Chris," I say as we approach Tokyo Delve's Sushi Bar in North Hollywood, "this place has no windows. No windows. And it's painted black." I answer his quizzical glance by explaining that a) I shy away from windowless dining venues as they are typically either the site of Mafia slayings or topless dancing, and b) the last all-black establishment I entered willingly was the Pyramid Club on the Lower East Side, where my wallet was stolen and I saw, through no fault of my own, my first pierced penis. And that was in 1985.
Chris rolls his eyes and assures me that this is going to be "fun." He is well into part six of his lecture on the importance of "an open mind" when we enter Delve's. "Whoa," says Chris, stepping quite perceptibly backward.
"Hi," yell the six sushi chefs, and they are not the only ones yelling. Everything in the place is: the chef's hot pink, green and yellow shirts and bandannas, the strobe lights, the crowd that is communicating in assembly line tones. And the music. It pulses and beats at such volume that it is a full two minutes before I realize that what I am hearing is, unbelievably, "My Angel Is a Centerfold."
"We don't have to stay," Chris says. I smile. Grimly. We take our seats at the sushi bar. Oh yes, we most certainly do, I think.
There are about 20 tables, about half inhabited by large groups of what seem to me excruciatingly young people. But not that young--suddenly, a waiter bearing more bottles of Sapporo than I have ever seen in one building appears. "Sappor," yell the waiters and chefs, their headsets making them look like Madonna on tour.
Two minutes later they begin yelling even more. It is 7 o'clock, which apparently means something. Mainly that the music, a reggae number, is jacked up a notch or two and the staff starts dancing. What am I saying? Everyone in the room , with a few exceptions such as myself, starts dancing. On the chairs, on the tables, on the counter. OK, OK, I start dancing too. But I keep my seat. I am chair-dancing. I can't help it. I am having "fun."
As the song winds down, there is more yelling, and a light swoops around the room--whoever is seated in the seat where it stops wins a free dinner. When it stops on an empty seat, the crowd expresses its dismay, loudly, and everyone reluctantly returns to their seats as the music dims to its original two-thirds blast. The parade of hits from the '70s--KC and the Sunshine Band, for crying out loud--makes talking pretty much impossible, so I watch the door.
The expressions on the faces of those entering--the saucer-like eyes, the little back-step, the lips mouthing "Oh, my God." But everyone comes gamely in--a bridal shower party, a Rosemary Clooney clone and her two grown sons, a pair of country club-type parents with their tennis-tanned blond daughter. I watch in fascination as Mom smiles bravely in a lockjawed Connecticut way, brushing off her chair before sitting down and telling herself, you can practically hear her, that it's always so good to see young people enjoying themselves. I turn away to avoid seeing the pain in her eyes when she discovers that a martini, very dry or otherwise, is out of the question.
Then "I'm Walking on Sunshine" revs up and I order a beer, am yelled at amiably and I know instantly that at the next opportunity, I will be up on a table with the rest of them.