Lost in Translation

The other morning, over breakfast at the Park Hyatt in Tokyo, the hotel where Sophia Coppola shot “Lost in Translation” starring Bill Murray as a washed up celebrity, I meet a former celebrity of my own. “Well that’s about as babka as you’re gonna get,” I overhear a woman saying to her son as he hovers over a Japanese cake, inspecting it suspiciously, and I immediately like her. Her name is Oskar (yes, Oskar!), and it turns out she too has three children, is from Manhattan, and though we live in different neighborhoods – she lives on the Lower East Side, but hell, when you’re in Japan that’s practically the same thing as the Upper West – and have different careers – she’s a transformational healer, which one could argue qualifies her, if a bit tenuously, as an artist – it seems we are leading quite similar, almost parallel lives. She even looks, and sounds, familiar. We haven’t met before, but perhaps I’ve met my doppelganger. Could we be soul sisters? And then I can’t help it. I do what every New York mother of young children does whenever she meets another New York mother of young children: I ask Oskar where her children go to school.

Oskar’s kids, as it turns out, go not to Friends Seminary or NEST or their local zoned public school, but to The Blue School, the school founded by Blue Man Group, where teachers follow their students’ interests and let the children do hands on projects rather than formal learning. “Like City and Country?” I ask hopefully, thinking of the school where once upon a time I’d dreamed of sending my own children. “City and Country?” laughs Oskar. “City and Country is like, ‘Let’s do progressive things, but then we’re all going to Yale.’ The Blue School is like ‘We’re all great and everybody’s fantastic and let’s just see where it leads us.’ Because if we’re all doing things to get into a school so we can get a job so people can be miserable and then pay me boatloads of money to help them heal. . . . .” and she shakes her head disdainfully. I know just what Oskar is talking about of course, because the world she is describing is the one I one I live in, for better or worse. Or perhaps just worse. But this hardly disqualifies us as soul sisters. Or does it?

And then Oskar tells me how her three year old accidentally dropped his plate on the floor of the dining room, smashing it loudly. Before I can even commiserate, offering up my own tale of child dining woe, Oskar pumps her fist. “Yes!” she says, “I was like, ‘That. . . . . was. . . . . awesome.’” Awesome? There is an awkward silence as I take this in. And then our whole awesome sister thing evaporates in a flash.

Later, when I get back to my room I will google Oskar and find out who she is, or rather was, before she became a healer. She is Oskar Saville, former lead singer of 10,000 Maniacs. No wonder she seemed so familiar. And yes, no wonder we’re so different.

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