Great cities need great museums, great streets, great companies, and great transportation networks. There is, nevertheless, one thing only great cities have that makes them unique and that is great poetry. By great poetry I mean a set of unique characters, customs, and places that turn life in those cities into a unique experience and lend the routines of their inhabitants a third sentimental dimension. Could you imagine New York without Central Park in the fall? Cairo without the sound of the adhan? Venice without the singing of the gondoliers? For me those things are not only unique to those places, they are the poetry of those cities.
In Tel Aviv there is a guy that drives an old white Mitsubishi Lancer around the streets slowly, with the windows open bursting pop music classics from the 80’s as loud as possible, on Shabbats and holidays. This man and his car fill the streets with art and enrage drivers who have to slow down.
I always wondered why does he do it? Is he doing this just for kicks because he has nothing better to do? Does he work? Does he have a family? And if so, did any of his family members die, and he is doing this to remember him or her? Does he enjoy 80’s music that much? Or, on the other hand, does he hate the Rabanut so much he wants to protest Shabbat? One thing is for sure – this guy is a truly a fascinating character.
Tel Aviv has no wailing wall, no mount Carmel, no Red Sea. Tel Aviv only has Mitsubishi Man. But unlike other tourist attractions, you can’t take pictures with Mitsubishi Man and, as far as I know, he doesn’t give out autographs. He is still raw, he is still ours. The clock tower in Yafo was built by the Ottomans, but Mitsubishi Man was built in Israel, and his Mitsubishi in Japan.
The best part about Mitsubishi Man is that he shares culture, a type of culture granted, but culture nevertheless – music from the 80’s. In a time where culture is tailored to the consumer like any other product, giving people no choice but to be exposed to a kind of culture they probably wouldn’t be exposed otherwise is both annoying and refreshing. Where would you listen to Ha-ha’s “The Sun Always Shines on TV” or Jennifer Rush’s “The Power Of Love” if not through Mitsubishi Man? He is not your obedient I-phone giving you what you want, he is the sound of the streets giving you what you need and you have to deal with it even if you don’t like it.
It’s hard to walk down Rothschild Boulevard on a Saturday afternoon and not hear Mitsubishi Man, and thanks to him, for me, it’s hard to hear Madonna’s “Material Girl” and not think of Rothschild Boulevard on a Saturday afternoon and associate all the feelings that go with that.
We are living in desolate times where culture is patterned and repeated, and all places and cities look the same like Marc Augé’s non-lieu. Our cities are becoming suburban non-places deprived of true creativity and poetry. An art gallery in Tel Aviv will show you, more or less what an art gallery will show you in New York, as if all artists are thinking alike. Probably they are because people in Tel Aviv, like pretty much anywhere else, strive to live and dream as if they were in New York (rent wise we are almost there), they just do it in a different language.
It’s poets like Mitsubishi Man that give each place it’s own unique poetry. You may disagree with his music taste and traffic speed, but aren’t you glad someone is trying to share something with you? New York has the Empire State building and Broadway. Tel Aviv has a man in a white slow Mitsubishi Lancer.