“The English are essentially puritans. Fulfilling enjoyment can only be obtained with a certain amount of discomfort and sparseness.”
Liela Moss is talking about her favourite pub, but it somehow seems pertinent in describing an ordeal friend and I underwent here in Jakarta last Friday in an attempt to “fulfil enjoyment”.
Leonardo Pavkovic, the proprieter of MoonJune, has this to say: Indonesia is a treasure trove for gifted musicians, and unique, sensational progressive bands – a true modern-day “hotbed” of some of the most original, innovative jazz yet to be produced by anyone, anywhere. Were it possible, [I] could spend every waking minute there and produce 10 or 15 albums per year of just amazing Indonesian bands!
I Know You Well Miss Clara, a sizzling progressive band from Yogyakarta, has just finished with masterings of their “Chapter One” sessions, …. and their debut CD should be out very soon. Their music has been compared with none other than prog Canterbury legends, Matching Mole … this is one you DEFINITELY won’t want to miss!
He was right about that, so friend and I met up at Ya ‘Usual for some sustenance and some catch up conversation before braving the Friday night traffic. We were fortunate that our taxi driver knew the back streets better than I know the back of my hand, and we arrived at Pacific Plaza in that soulless heart of Jakarta known as the Golden Triangle (which no public bus traverses).
Pacific Plaza was the recent scene of a stampede for a special promo of a new Raspberry smart phone. We have witnessed stampedes before in Indonesia, but generally among the poor who have to survive on a bare minimum wage for about seven weeks on the offered discount of Rp.2 million.
Madness which I can only sum by thinking that so-called smart phones are for dumb people.
Anyway, moving on, we entered the truly palatial – glittering chandeliers and all – atrium of this obviously upmarket mall. It had the feel of a five star hotel, but with exclusive guests who remained discretely out of sight. We rode up the escalators and gazed at the empty emporia – I hesitate to use the words ‘concrete cubicles’ – not selling their luxury cars or shoes until we reached the third floor and our ultimate destination – @America.
A ripped off ice cream parlour logo?
As we entered, we were given a brochure which has this to say about what awaited us: @america is a cutting-edge 21st-century cultural center where you can explore and experience the United States, and express your thoughts and ideas about to America.
Friend Simon P. of the now moribund Metro Mad blog visited @america shortly after it opened; we should have remembered, if only to be forewarned that we were seemingly about to enter a theme park based on Guantanamo Bay and that the Homeland Security Act applies to this pokey hole in Jakarta.
Simon wrote: “In order to penetrate into the digitally wired inner sanctum of Pax Americana central, I first had to breach the Fort Knox-esque security detail, which included an x-ray scanner, a full body frisk (my socks came under particular scrutiny for some reason) and the storage of my bag in a clear, Perspex locker. One could perhaps forgive the Guantánamo style vigilance however, as there are no doubt many in Indonesia who would wish to see @america blown into rubble.”
He might be right about that last point, and if our departing words had had much force, then perhaps we’d have achieved it.
But first we had to go through the body scanner, plonk our bags in a perspex locker, to which we were given a key, and then go through yet another body scanner, thankfully without special attention being paid to our socks (or underpants come to think of it) and then enter the hallowed sanctum. Friend’s first complaint was that we couldn’t get a drink and there were no toilets.
I went in search of the latter, which meant going outside with one of the Indonesian human resources from inside as my guide. It wasn’t clearly signposted; luckily the Ladies was empty. I went back and had to go through the same routine, minus my bag, yet again. I was beginning to feel like a rat in a maze.
However, I recognised some members of the group from a YouTube and introduced myself as a friend of Leonardo. (If you read this, L, they are looking forward to meeting you on your next trip here.) Lovely guys, but as friend told them, we would far rather see the group in a real cultural centre, such as Gedung Kesenian, CCF, Erasmus Huis and the Goethe Institute; he was sufficiently agitated by the paranoia of the management that at this point he abruptly left.
I chatted with the group a bit longer, and dashed out in pursuit of him. My cries echoed over the vastness, but I was too late. In order to leave with my bag, I had to re-enter the maze, and then enter the exit corridor, poke my key through a space in the perspex box barrier, and that was it.
I crossed the road and waited ages before a taxi arrived to take me to the nearest Busway halte. As I gazed at the big black limousines pulling into the forecourt of Pacific Place, I chatted with a security guard who coincidentally lives near Jakartass Towers. No, tuan, he told me, he’d never been inside that gilded tower.
It’s where the rich go.
And stupid, I thought.
A room in @america