“On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair . . .”
Toshikazu Sasaki could see and feel the words when he first listened to The Eagles song on the radio. He was 12 years old. “I had never even heard about the American desert before, but somehow I could see it. And it looked familiar, like I’d been there before,” Sasaki-san reminisces. His parents ran a jazz-kissa (coffee shop) in Ikebukuro, so, even at that age he had been exposed to a variety of music and had already discovered The Who and The Stones. But The Eagles unlocked his imagination.
At the same time, he was also discovering a passion for tinkering with mechanical devices — any kind, as long as it had moving parts. Since then, Sasaki-san has worked professionally on everything from Harley V-twins to antique Rolexes. But when he turned 30, he realized he would never be able to own any of these toys — let alone afford his own garage or jewelers.
He could, however, muster the money to open a bar. And the energy needed to renovate it. Blond-wood paneling now alternates with corrugated metal. Exposed red I-beams traverse the ceiling; matching red cushions line benches and stools below. An advertisement for sparkplugs hangs like a trophy on one wall. A pro-model Harley-Davidson Heritage Soft Tail is tucked among the bottles behind the bar. When the engine suddenly kicked over, I realized it was a phone.
Sasaki-san was pleased when I noted the garagelike atmosphere. He then showed me a model of an original Air Stream trailer: That was his inspiration for the bar. The result is chic and 100 percent oil-free. And, no, the name Motion Lotion doesn’t refer to the products sold in the love hotels nearby. It means “gasoline” in the CB-radio jargon used by U.S. truckers.
Sasaki-san tends to spin MOR rock, meaning that Air Supply or Joni Mitchell are more likely to be keeping the beat in the background than AC/DC — which is as hard as I’ve heard it get. His customers are a mix of thirtysomethings (like Honda-san, with a diploma in music trivia) and twentysomethings (like Ken-chan, the owner of a hip-hop clothing and tattoo store across the street).
Seeing Ken, Sasaki-san remembered his own tattoo and lifted the cuff of his jeans to reveal an elegant yet bewildering shape. It looked like the molecular model for a carbon-based compound. “It’s the crankshaft in a Ford V-8,” he said, smiling from ear to ear.