grey marble

January 31, 2004

Dim Sum and the dangers of sharing

I've just returned from dim sum at Golden Unicorn. In the lobby, the receptionist asked a small group if they would like to share a table. After some confusion, they determined they would not like to share a table. The last time I was at dim sum, I sat with a friend who had brought a number of her friends I'd never met. I reached towards a plate and then thought better of it. Lowering my voice, I asked if we knew the people to my right. She said no, and I casually withdrew my chopsticks.

The first time I shared a table it was at Joe's Shanghai. A group of us took over a large table where a couple on the perifery. Li-T was late and as she sat she asked the couple next to her to sample their dishes. The couple looked at each other and then obliged. She shovelled a large portion onto her plate and returned the dish to the astonished couple. A friend had to lean in to explain the situation to her, after which she turned beet red, apologizing profusely. Posted by eugene at

January 30, 2004

Reggae in da snow

It's cold out. I'm listening to reggae to warm up. In college, I met a girl who thinks of Christmas when she hears Bob Marley. During winter break, she worked at a place that made fruit baskets. The other employees were from the Carribean and they would play reggae throughout the season. She told this to us towards the end of the summer. The windows were open and I was cycling through a number of reggae records. We had all just returned from vacation and were wondering what to do about dinner. Midway through "No Woman No Cry" she said the song reminded her of Christmas. And then she told us the story. Posted by eugene at


I once saw Luciano Pavarotti emerge from a limousine. I was walking home from Lincoln Center. I had gone to Tower Records and spent more money than I should have on opera cds. While browsing their selections, I had determined to buy a recording by Cecilia Bartoli of French chansons, but was debating whether to spend the money on an entire Verdi opera with Maria Callas singing the title role. It was my first year in the city; I was poor. I had attended the opera a few times, always standing in the cheapest section at the back of the room. Occasionally, a patron called away after the first act would offer his or her orchestra ticket to us. The ushers were adamant that we not sneak into any empty seat otherwise.

At one performance I met a clarinetest who studied at Juilliard. She was working that day as an usher. She said she was once given front row tickets to an opera at the Met. She said listening to the singer's diction at such close range was something she would never forget. Then she apologized for not allowing me to claim an empty seat in the house. The ushers would actually contain the standing room area with a velvet rope at the beginning of each act.
That afternoon at Tower I kept picking up the CDs and putting it back. I would circle the aisles flipping through various albums, return, pick up the CDs, and put them back. Finally I decided to use my credit card and buy them both. I walked home to save subway fare, although that was a minor expense compared to the cost of the CDs. I walked south along Broadway until I came to Fifty-ninth Street, then turned left to walk along the southern boundary of the Park. A limousine was parked in front of the Essex House. I was still relatively new to New York and so I slowed my step to see who might emerge. As I passed I looked in, but couldn't see. Glancing back, I watched as a large man slowly made his way out of the car. I turned and saw Pavarotti, beaming at the manager of the hotel. I smiled and held my CDs close. Posted by eugene at | Comments (1)

January 29, 2004

Look left look right. Look right look left.

This morning I caught myself looking right before left when crossing West Broadway. Growing up in America, I was taught to look left, then right, then left again. In New York, the majority of the streets are one-way, and so I look in only one direction depending on whether the street is an even or odd number. I began looking to the right first after my trip to Southeast Asia. While each country drives on a different side of the road, I spent the majority of my time in Thailand, where people drive on the left. I'm not sure why. In Myanmar, people drove on the left until 1970, when Ne Win decreed that traffic would drive on the right. It is said that a fortune-teller told him he would die in a traffic accident on the left side of the road. And so, on a morning in 1970, all traffic stopped, then slowly switched lanes. Posted by eugene at

Better Off Dead

Although I grew up in the 80s, I didn't see the films of that decade until later. Long Duck Dong was as unfamiliar to me as Lloyd Dobler until after college, when I decided to rent the movies my friends quoted and referenced throughout high school. Last night I rented Better Off Dead. To a certain extent, I've grown up with John Cusak. In Better Off Dead, he's the awkward teenager who needs the French foreign exchange student to teach him to take a stand. By Say Anything, he's turned himself into the coolest kid in school. And then in Grosse Point Blank, he attends his high school reunion, just about the time I attended mine.

I was reluctant to attend our reunion. Patty talked me into attending, and she forced the issue as I circled the empty parking lot at the Groton Motor Inn looking for a spot. "Just park already!" Two cars pulled in on either side of us, and out stepped friends I had all but forgotten. Revelations continued through the night, whispered amongst friends ("She's a stripper!"), or shouted in semi-drunk stupors over the din of music and dancing ("I'm sorry for how I treated you, dude! I always admired you!"). It seemed everyone danced with everyone. From the mini-reunion in the parking lot to the gathering afterwards at Don's house, it was a love-fest. Returning to New York, Joanne and I met Lauren for brunch. Lauren was unable to attend the reunion and wanted to hear how it was. We sat and as she asked us questions, Joanne remarked, "I have to rely on what E says; I had to get drunk to go, and now I can't remember a thing." Posted by eugene at

January 28, 2004

Snowbound buses

I walked past a Big Apple Tour bus this morning stuck on the corner of Spring and Wooster. While negotiating the corner, the wheels became encased in snow. A few tourists looked out from within at a small lot usually filled with clothes and jewelry vendors. The driver and tour guide walked around the bus with shovels. A few years ago, I was stuck on a city bus during a blizzard. The bus slowly slid to a stop, and when the driver tried to pull away from the curb, the wheels spun on a patch of ice. He tried rocking the bus unsuccessfully. He shrugged and announced, "This bus is now out of service," then opened the doors. A passing bus picked us up. I didn't think the story was that interesting, but apparently readers love a weather story. It made the papers. Posted by eugene at

Dream House

I've been dreaming of the same house for the past few nights. I always see it from the same angle, emerging from between two hills, a tree to the right, and a shed at the back. On the shed are painted the letters "LCD." While the physical house is the same from dream to dream, its purpose is different. There are different occupants, and I am coming up to the house for different reasons. I can never remember what those motivations are when I wake, just that they are different from dream to dream. I have never been inside. Posted by eugene at

New York snowfall

I walked out in the snow this evening to buy a pint of ice cream. Flakes brushed my umbrella; snow crunched underfoot. Snow fell my first night in New York. I had come from Boston to interview for a job at St. Martin's Press. Afterwards, I called a college friend I knew to be in the city. We met for lunch, and he mentioned Henry Threadgill had a gig that night at the Knitting Factory. He offered his couch, and I decided to stay the night. We walked out of the concert into a blizzard. Traffic had all but stopped and people were skiing in the street. Snow covered our shoulders in seconds. The flakes were large and fell fast. We walked from the club to the east village, slipping on the drifts that had already piled up along the sidewalks. We stepped into a cafe for coffee and sambuca and to watch the snow fall. The windows were fogged over, giving the outside world a dreamy quality. A small jazz band played in the corner. A clarinetist soloed. Everything seemed subdued, as if all the city had paused to gaze at the snow quickly blanketing the concrete. I met my friend's girlfriend that night. He had thought to marry her. Years later, he married my cousin. Posted by eugene at

January 27, 2004

Rice Balls

There's a place on 45th street between Lexington and Third called oms/b which serves rice balls. There's another café on Mulberry that does the same. I love the place on 45th. It's a small shop and very clean. Upon entering you can smell the cooked rice. I've only recently started eating rice balls. Simmy and I discovered the place on 45th a few months ago, and now, on my lunch trips uptown, I tend to favor it.

Rice balls remind me of Hirokazu Koreeda's After Life, a film about memory and the making of films. In one scene, a grandmother is remembering her childhood, before the war. She remembers sitting in a bamboo grove, making rice balls with her mother. She teaches the actors around her how to make them, showing them the proper size and technique, much as her mother must have done. The last time I sat in a bamboo forest was in Kamakura, Japan, at the Hokokuji Temple. For a small fee you could be served macha in a wooden bowl. It was late November, just after Thanksgiving, and I sat with the bowl warming my hands. On a small tray sat two candies shaped into plum blossoms. The damp air muted perception, but I could hear the murmur of conversation around me and the creaking of wood, and the sound of steps on stone. After I had finished the bitter tea and the candies, I sat until the warmth began to leave me, then gathered my things and rose to leave. Posted by eugene at


A friend of Li-T emailed me yesterday. She had recently returned from Cambodia and is thinking of putting together a website to promote her friend's tour company. Along with her request she sent me a link to her photos. I was in Southeast Asia in 2000 and spent a week at Angkor. It was was one of the best weeks of my life. Looking at her photographs, I remember the intricate beauty of Banteay Srei, the crumbling majesty of Beng Mealea, the perfect symmetry of Angkor Wat. There, I fell in love with Khmer sculpture and architecture. It's hard to pick the hilights. Sitting in the jungle, surrounded by stone, I wrote in my journal, took photographs, and sent postcards to friends, trying to capture some part of the experience. I swam in the Tonlé Sap, negotiated the lingas submerged in the waters of the Kobal Spean, and watched the sunrise atop temples built a thousand years ago. One night Ohl, my motorcycle driver, took me to the West Baray and negotiated with a boatsman to take us to the center of the resevoir. The remains of the West Mebon lay on an island facing the sunset. We sat on blocks warmed by the sun and watched as the light leaked out of the day. Returning to shore, the figure of my driver and boatsman blurred into shadow. The only sound was the light putt putt putt of the outboard motor. Posted by eugene at

January 26, 2004

Musique Francaise

In college I saw a production of Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris. I had no idea who he was. The show was presented as a cabaret, featuring Brel's songs translated into English. Later, I heard Brel himself when a friend played one of his records over brunch, and I heard the same songs rendered in their native tongue. It was the second time I heard "Ne Me Quitte Pas," and that album became the first French language album I purchased. I later heard a disappointing rendition of the song by Sting. In high school I had heard of Edith Piaf (the little sparrow), and was familiar with Fére Jacques, but Brel opened up a new world of popular music. I found my first Edith Piaf record on a sidewalk in New York, stuck in a box of classical records being thrown out by someone moving from one place to another. (On the same sidewalk, I later found a copy of Eric B. and Rakim's Paid in Full, the cover ripped, but the vinyl in good condition). Lately I've discovered Françoise Hardy, and find myself gravitating back towards Serge Gainsbourg. The first Gainsbourg album I owned was given to me. A friend's parents were visiting from France and she asked them to bring me a copy of the two CD compilation À Gainsbarre. I have never before or since heard anyone render the word "black" with such a dark guttural thickness. You can almost hold it like tar in your hand. Posted by eugene at


On Sunday, I gave G prints of some photographs I took at her birthday party. We met at Lin's, who cooked a great New Year's dinner. (One of the more interesting observations made was that Judy Dean wears Aisics, the marathoner's footwear of choice.) As she flipped through the pictures, I stopped her to ask the name of one of her friends. Ah, that's E——, she said. She's the girl I was trying to match you with. We've met twice so far, but I had forgotten that G had designs on our future. I asked if she had reminded me before meeting her. "No," she said. "It's just as well; I guess there have been no sparks." I seem to remember G saying in the past she wasn't sure we'd necessarily hit it off as a couple, just that we'd be funny together. I'm not sure what she meant by that then, and, after meeting her friend, I'm still not sure what she means by that now. Posted by eugene at

New Order

I can't stop listening to Power, Corruption, and Lies. Growing up in a Connecticut suburb, I was an alien to the Asian affinity for electronic bands in the 80s. I was introduced to Depeche Mode through Violator, rather than any of the previous albums that lent their hits to 101, and the true power of "Bizarre Love Triangle" (pre-Frente) didn't manifest itself until I visited Taiwan. In high school, I listened to classic rock, publicly eschewing pop, but privately crowding around the radio for the weekly top 40. I never sold out Michael Jackson, however; at least not until Dangerous. Late college is when I was more formally introduced. Until then, Anything Box was an unknown to me as were Yaz and Erasure. In Taipei, I watched as their songs packed the dance floor. Everyone sang the words, mimicked the action, "Every time I see you falling I get down on my knees and pray," "Oh l'amour. Broke my heart now I'm aching for you . . . "

Last year, my cousin Irene danced her first dance to Depeche Mode's "Somebody" at her wedding. Around the room, everyone's lips were moving, everyone was singing along. And so was I. Posted by eugene at

January 25, 2004


I haven't had a galette du roi this year. I don't have one every year, but I think about it. They're only available in January, to celebrate The Feast of the Kings. I was introduced to the cakes four or five years ago by Anaïs. French tradition dictates that whomever finds the prize baked inside is king or queen for the day. In the past the surprise was a fève—a large, flat bean. More recently it has been replaced with a porcelain figurine. I was never certain what rights and privledges being king entitles one, save wearing the paper crown that comes with the cake. In America, if you want to wear a paper crown, you can go to Burger King, year-round. The next year I bought a galette for myself, inviting people to take slices as they visited. I didn't find the fève in the large slice that I took. A friend only wanted a taste. The slice she cut was no wider than a pen. She took a bite, then another, then cried out. From her mouth she pulled a milk maiden.

Guillemette tells me she baked one a few weeks ago for a friend's party. When I told her I hadn't had a galette this year, she said that had she known she would have saved me a piece. It's ok. I'm only looking for the fève. Posted by eugene at

Prince and Cyndi Lauper

I'm listening to Cyndi Lauper's first album, She's So Unusual. At dinner on Friday one of the topics of conversation was 80s music. The Lightning Seeds, a band that I had all but forgotten, was mentioned, and after this I'll have to dig out their album, if only to hear "Pure." Cyndi Lauper came up in another 80s conversation yesterday. After "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," the chords of the next song were oddly familiar. As soon as the synths came in (echoing the guitars of the original) I realized it was Prince's "When You Were Mine." Before Life closed, I saw Prince at the club. The doors opened at 9; the show was advertised as starting at 10. Prince was coming from another uptown gig (for an awards show) and as 10 o'clock approached, there was news of an uptown delay. Eleven came and went, and then midnight. People complained how Prince was notoriously late for club shows, and my feet were starting to ache. Around two in the morning, roadies started arriving and setting up. Prince was in the area, if not in the building. Forty-five minutes to an hour later, a diminutive form was seen walking to the stage. He played for almost three hours. It was amazing. After the show, I walked out of the club to an already brightening sky. I went home, slept for an hour or two, and went to work, his guitar burned into my mind. Posted by eugene at

Huo Guo

The other day, I heard someone mention that huo guo is a traditional Chinese New Year meal. I hadn't heard of that before, but found myself at an all-you-can-eat huo guo buffet for dinner. David was meeting a group of friends he met during the Overseas Chinese Youth Language Training and Study Tour to the Republic of China and invited me to join them. I attended the same study tour years before. I was the 3rd oldest male to attend that year, a distinction that brought with it a minor celebrity status. My fondest memory of the six week tour was an afternoon I was to meet a friend for a jazz concert in the courtyard of the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall. I took a cab and arrived to find the space devoid of musicians, and my friend. I climbed the steps of the opera house to better scan the crowds from its terrace. A Taiwanese student stood beside me, looked at me askance, and then began to talk to me. We spent the afternoon chatting in Chinese, and when the afternoon threatened to become early evening, she led me to the nearest bus stop and directed me the way home. I had never before been so squeezed into a vehicle.

Earlier in my stay, I had asked a cousin of mine if she could tell we were not local Taiwanese. She laughed and told me it was obvious, from the shorts and t-shirts we wore, to the Tevas on our feet. What if we traded outfits with a typical Taiwanese native? I asked. She said it was still obvious. It was in our bearing, our attitude, the way we walked. In my more recent travels through Asia, I have been mistaken for a Chinese mainlander, a Bangkok native, a Myanmar villager, a Japanese teenager in Kyoto. I'm uncertain whether this means the east has become more western, or if I am better able to adapt to my surroundings.

In Myanmar I took to wearing longyi. They were significantly cooler than my pants. It was near Inle lake that I was mistaken. I was returning to my guesthouse after a day touring the area, and night was falling. As I turned in, the owner emerged from her office and paused. She told me she thought I was a local boy walking home until I turned into the driveway and the light caught my glasses. "None of the kids here wear glasses," she told me, then asked what I wanted for dinner. Later that night the power went out. I have never before seen so many stars. Posted by eugene at

January 24, 2004

Subway Story No. 3

I took the G train for the first time today. I've lived in New York for six some years. The subways were running irregularly due to weekend construction, and some local trains were running express. The electronic announcements didn't change, however. And so, as we were running express on the uptown 6, the annoucements came every minute. Now approaching Canal Street (ping) . . . now approaching Spring Street (ping) . . . now approaching Astor Place (ping) . . . The man across from me, his skin as thin as paper, squinted at the map. His eyes scanned the stations, as if wondering if the train would stop. Posted by eugene at

Subway Story No. 2

On the subway home I stood beside a man who held an envelope and two photographs in his hands. The envelope had been quickly torn; the stamps indicated it was an international letter. One photograph showed a young child wearing a blue jacket. In his hands, the child held a paper cup. A blue straw, the color of his jacket, pointed towards his face. The child was looking at the camera, his attention drawn by the photographer. A flash had washed out his features, the background was dark. The other photograph showed the same child and a woman. A calendar hung on the wall beside them. In the background, four or five figures sat off to the left. The man shuffled between the two, returning always to the picture of the woman and child. He was unaware of his surroundings. A forefinger caressed the paper around the woman's face. I spent the entire ride looking at the photographs, trying to guess who they were and where they were and wondering why the man sitting beside me was not with them. Posted by eugene at

January 23, 2004

Georgia and Richard Austin

I'm so glad they released Georgia. It's the only serif typeface I use on the web, if only because it has non-lining figs. Matthew Carter, the designer, has this to say about it: 'At the time I started Georgia I had been working on a new retail family (called Miller, still not released) which is a version of Scotch Roman. I have always admired Scotch, particularly in its early forms as cut by Richard Austin for Bell and Miller.' (from cap online)

Richard Coe Austin is the name of my high school history professor. He used to threaten to move to Australia dependent upon the outcome of presidential elections. He must be there by now. While I never distinguished myself in his class, I liked him. His lectures used to put the class to sleep. I remember one quiz on which I used the word "pariah" (a word he used in his lecture) to describe the lower classes in Egypt. He singled out that instance that at least some people were paying attention in class. Even if I registered barely a passing grade. Posted by eugene at

Claude Steele at NYU

In Steele's talk last night he told of an experiment to measure the effect of identity threat. The researcher tells a white male subject that he's to have a conversation with two other people, either two blacks or two whites. The conversation will either be about racial profiling or about love and relationships. The subject is then lead into a room with three chairs. The researcher tells the subject to arrange the chairs as he goes to bring in the interlocutors, then leaves. In the results, researchers found that when the subject was to talk with other whites, the chairs were placed close together. When he was to talk with blacks about love and relationships the chairs were closer still. When the subject was racial profiling with blacks, the chairs were far apart, and the more non-racist the subject was, the further the chairs were. As to the latter results, they followed the typical pattern of his studies. As to the fact of the subject placing his chair closer to the imagined black participants when the topic was love and relationships, Steele laughed and said, "In this case, your guess really is as good as mine." Posted by eugene at

Paul Simon and Pittsburgh

The first song on Nelly Furtado's new album is called "One-Trick Pony." There's a Paul Simon song by that name. For a moment I thought Furtado was the same person as Edie Brickell, but she's not and so there's one conection that's not really there. The songs are not the same. In 1991, I saw Simon play in Central Park. I was supposed to be at school, classes being just about to start, but I was on probation. That summer I knew, but I was hesitant to confirm with my friends that I could go to the concert, as if making that admission before receiving the actual notification would make the reality of the situation real too soon. During his encore, as he sang "America," I cheered when he sang about Pittsburgh. It's not a city I have any particular fondness for; I'm not planning on visiting anytime soon. I had seen Simon on the same tour earlier that year, in Pittsburgh. Then, after he sang the same song he smiled and said he always looked forward to visiting the city for the response that follows that line. "Kathy, I said as we boarded a Greyhound . . . " Posted by eugene at


I met Lin at the Kimmel center for a talk by Claude Steele on identity and how it relates specifically to underperformance in testing situations. We had to sign in with a guard before being allowed into the building. I signed in with Lin, but then decided to wait in the lobby in front of the guard with Jean for Steve. Five minutes later, Steve arrived and I walked through the security gate. The guard stopped me and asked me who I was. I told him that I had signed in five minutes ago. He had checked my picture I.D. at the time. I flipped back a page on his sign-in sheet and pointed to a scribble that bore a vague resemblance to my name. He nodded his head then waved me through. Posted by eugene at

January 22, 2004

Monkeys bit my friend

Cel joked "monkeys bit my sister." Monkeys actually bit my friend. She was in Bali, visiting the temple at Uluwatu. She was photographing the monkeys and got too close. One jumped on her and started biting her head. Her friend wrote about it in an email missive, and I almost didn't believe it. They had rented a car to drive there from Ubud, though neither of them could drive standard very well, and in their excitement to get to a hospital kept stalling. A local offered to drive them. When they offered their thanks he said it was no problem and disappeared into the night. My friend was fine in the end, and when she returned she showed me pictures of her bloodied t-shirt.

Years later I went to Uluwatu myself. It's a beautiful temple on the edge of the island, and when the sun sets the sea looks like crinoline. My driver and I talked about sate turtle and other favorite foods. I kept away from the monkeys. Posted by eugene at

Happy New Year

It's the year of the monkey, 4701, the beginning of a new century. I don't think I know any monkeys off the top of my head, though I'm bad at remembering people's signs, much to Mimi's chagrin. Another friend of mine tells me that depending on the year and your sign, you can wear other animal charms to better your fortunes. I think this year she's wearing a tiger, but I can't recall her sign. Last year she didn't wear one because she couldn't find an amulet cute enough. May this year not too mischievous. A happy and healthy one to you all. Posted by eugene at | Comments (1)

January 21, 2004

First grade teachers

An ad in the subway for the NYC Teaching Fellows reads, "You remember the name of your first grade teacher. Who will remember yours?" I don't remember my first grade teacher, but I remember my fourth. She gave us pencils one year for Christmas. I knew they were pencils before I opened the gift. I could smell the wood through the wrapping paper. They were green with gold lettering, "Merry Christmas From Mrs. Powell." I never used them. Years ago I returned to Idaho and visited my elementary school. Mrs. Powell was still there, shorter than I remember, but then everything was. I hadn't been back since leaving the summer after fourth grade. Her hair was blonde; I remembered a brunette. It may have been frosted. A pipe had broken in her classroom, but she pretended to remember me before rushing off to find a janitor. On the wall was a photograph of a snow dragon that had been carved on the front lawn one of the years I attended. Or maybe they do that every year. I want to remember the black and white picture as from my own. Posted by eugene at

Whatchamacallit and the lingering power of suggestion

Whenever I'm at a drugstore and decide to treat myself with a candy bar, I always get a Whatchamacallit, if they have it. I don't even much like them save that they're crunchy. The chocolate is subpar. But I still remember seeing the ads on tv when I was growing up in Idaho. Two older men drove Laurel-and-Hardy style through the bread basket of America in what I remember being a Model T. One asks what the other is eating, which sets off a "Who's on first?" argumentative dialogue. (The last time I remember an advertisement using this technique was for Nuts 'n' Honey.) I don't remember the ending, but I would imagine it ends with a crash. I remember really wanting one in the past, which still informs my present.

Once, when my family went fishing with friends, Shirley showed us the stash of lollipops her parents kept in their Winnebago. She distributed them equally to each of us, and we stuffed ourselves and our pockets. My parents found out when they heard the rustle of plastic as I walked. They weren't convinced that I had collected pebbles by the river, and made my brother and I return all the candy we had carefully packed away. We should have eaten more when we had the chance. Posted by eugene at


I've been having very vivid dreams recently. I wake in the middle of the night with the memory of them sharp in my mind. I go back to sleep and then wake up in the morning with the memory of the dream, but not its details. Before I went to Southeast Asia, my doctor prescribed larium, a prophylactic for marlaria. He told me one of the side effects were vivid dreams, or nightmares. He then told me of a couple he had prescribed it to. The woman, apparently, had vivid erotic dreams. When they returned from their trip, the husband asked that his wife be given a constant prescription of the stuff. Posted by eugene at


At Cher's insistence, I have read Embers, written by a Hungarian writer, Sándor Márai. Reading the book has nothing to do with my trip to Budapest. The second half of the novel is taken up with a soliloquy. I can see F. Murray Abraham onstage, playing the General. I'm not sure who to cast as his long-suffering guest. The most poignant passage occurs early on. The less fortunate friend of the future General—a man born to a family of wealth—tells him about his guilt over his parents' sacrifice to send him to military school. "When I'm staying with you and I top one of the servants, I am expending a portion of their lives. It is very hard to live in such a way." Posted by eugene at

Eric Clapton. Lead. Vocals.

I ended up at a yakitori place for dinner on St. Marks. As we walked in, Cream's "Crossroads" assaulted us. I used to love Eric Clapton. Before I discovered Freddie King and Sonny Boy Williamson and Robert Johnson. In college, I was still listening to the classic rock I had favored in high school, and one of the first box sets I purchased was Clapton's Crossroads set. If my freshman roommate's weakness was 90's metal ballads, mine was 70's Clapton. Since college I rarely find myself dusting off either the Clapton or the Derek and the Dominos set off my shelf. But faced with the urgency of that song on the stereo, it make me want to go back and reclaim him. Listening to "Crossroads" now, I'm particularly struck by the basslines. Posted by eugene at

January 20, 2004


Walking to meet Kit and Eric in the west village I passed the takoyaki stand on 9th street. Two groups were huddled together outside around their plastic containers, one on the bench, the other a bit off to the side, fighting the cold. The first time I had takoyaki was in Tokyo. I had decided to spend my vacation in Japan, and tacked my two weeks onto the Thanksgiving break. I was in Harajuku, standing in whatever line I saw formed in front of any stand selling snacks. On a side street, kids were sitting on the sidewalk eating out of paper boxes. I stood in line, pointed, and found myself with a box warming my hands. I poked at the lightly browned balls with a bamboo skewer and had my first bite. I don't have takoyaki enough. Posted by eugene at


I just had a package of Pretz, thanks to co-worker Dennis. They're sort of a sister snack to Pocky. As Mimmy is to Hello Kitty, so Pretz are to Pocky. Over the summer I was at the Korean deli on the corner of Thompson and Prince with Ed. As we were checking out I was compelled to buy a box of Pocky. Ed, who is Cantonese and went to Berkeley, had never had them before. I was surprised, and my initial debate over whether to buy a box became determination, if only so that Ed could have some. He liked them. I haven't brought a box of Pocky home since, however. If I buy them they never get that far. Posted by eugene at

Subway Story

I should have known better. I should have guessed when I saw the empty car, the man by the door holding the sleeve of his sweater against his nose. The problem became palpable with the first step into the train. But the conductor cautioned against the closing doors, and the train was about to start. I followed a man as he opened the door between the cars, chased out by the stench. I never saw the offending person. In the next car there was spirited debate about the homeless man's future, the charity organizations to which he could avail. In the end, an Urban Express courier shook his head and summed up the situation. "That guy ain't helping himself," he said. "He done gave up." Posted by eugene at

Neighborhood Haunts

When I moved to New York I thought one of the more interesting relationships was between that of a diner and his or her usual haunt. I had formed my idea from books or tv, and was looking forward to those restaurants that I'd frequent, where, in the words of a theme song "everybody knows your name." It never happened.

Recently, a number of smaller inexpensive restaurants have opened in my area, taking over space left by boutique hat and furniture shops. And I've found myself hanging out at Hiroko's cafe, listening to the jazz groups she hosts Saturday and Sunday afternoons, and frequenting the Mooncake Diner rather than ordering from Nyonya. On the odd occasion I find myself at Cafe la Palette, where each time Claudia complains I haven't been recently. It's nice to support the local establishments, and, in this weather, it's nice to have cheaper options closer to home. In the past all the nearby places were more expensive and chic. Which isn't to say they're bad. Just not what you'd eat every night of the week. I was sad to see the smaller takeout Khin Khao go (replaced by a jewelry store), but I think these newer places more than make up for its loss. And I'm back to buying frozen dumplings from Chinatown on those nights I don't want to venture out at all. Posted by eugene at

Inadvertant healthnut

In the past few years my tastes for sweets has fallen off. Last night at a Dominican restaurant, I could barely take more than three bites of the tres leches we ordered. I won't say no to Japanese cakes however, especially those from Panya (their strawberry shortcake rocks). Somehow, Asian cakes don't seem as sweet. I also can't seem to have muffins for breakfast anymore (save for English muffins, but I guess that's a different thing). This morning, with no time for my usual soy granola and non-fat yogurt (it's tasty! really!), I walked by the deli thinking of picking up a blueberry muffin, but the thought of it sitting in my stomach convinced me to pass on. Now I wish I had some Triscuits at my desk to nibble on. Posted by eugene at

The Lenox Lounge

I have just returned from the Lenox Lounge, a small jazz club between 124th and 125th street on Malcolm X Boulevard. In the bar, one tv was tuned to a basketball game, the other to a documentary on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The volume on the game was tuned down, but Dr. King's voice rang through the sparsely populated room. In the back, Roy Campbell hosted his Monday night jam session. For five dollars and a two drink minimum you can stay until the club closes. I had been once before, years ago, to see Dakota Stanton, and afterwards bid for one of her lp's on ebay. In 1957, she had had a minor hit with the theme to The Late, Late Show. The room, while not full, was well populated, and the generally older crowd was appreciative. She was almost blind; a man had to help her to her seat and back to the mike. I spent some time wondering if the drummer, by virtue of his surname, was the son of a legendary tenor saxophonist.

I arrived on time; Li-T late. She brought a friend of her visiting from Japan. It was her friend who was looking for a jazz club to visit; she's in town for a jazz educators conference beginning Wednesday. Roy Campbell and his quartet played the first set, allowing a girl to sit in to sing "Skylights" before taking a break. Li-T's friend approached the trumpet player and asked to sing. Three songs into the second set he called her name. When she returned to the table, she was shaking. She had sung in Harlem and the audience had applauded. Posted by eugene at

January 19, 2004

Sandy Duncan snacks

The unfortunate thing about spending my entire day cooped up at home (cleaning, reading, doing laundry, waiting for a cousin to call) is the dearth of snacks I keep. I've been meaning to buy a box of Triscuits to nibble on. Simmy tells me that they're better for you than Wheat Thins, even though Wheat Thins are very tasty. I like Triscuits as well. However, I almost never buy snacks. I tend to eat them all at once. Growing up, watching her advertisements, I was never certain what Wheat Thins were or who she was (a farmer?). It was much later that I learned she was Peter Pan (do Wheat Thins keep you young forever?) Now I can't remember the first time I had them. I haven't even showered yet. Posted by eugene at


I met Sam yesterday at Hiroko's cafe. Among other things he told me that in the apartment he rents they have a washer and a drier in the unit. It's a loft-like space he shares with two other people on Canal and Broadway. I was floored. If there was one thing I would wish for in my apartment it would be a washer. I wouldn't even need a drier (though it would be welcome if it were looking to come in from the cold). Lin tells me that there's a German front-loader that she wants to buy when she eventually buys one. It may be the Bosch. A front-loader, she tells me, is gentler on your clothes and consumes less water. The Bosch is especially designed to be more conservative since in Germany water and electricity costs more. "It's the Mercedes of washing machines," I believe she once said. Or words to that effect. I'm doing laundry now. Happy Martin Luther King day. Posted by eugene at


Li-T was asking me about jazz clubs. A friend of hers is in town from Japan for a conference, and she wanted advice on where to take her. When I first moved to New York, I scoured the Voice for listings of who was playing when and where. In the first six months after arriving, I saw Ron Carter, Branford Marsalis, Max Roach, Cecil Taylor, McCoy Tyner, Bobby Hutcherson . . . I was searching out all the artists I'd been listening to throughout college. A year later, I stopped. I had seen most of the artists I had wanted to see (save maybe Jackie McLean) and couldn't really afford the cover charges and drink minimums on my then salary.

There are still some bands with standing gigs in New York I've been meaning to catch, including the Mingus Big Band. For a long time, Toshiko Akiyoshi's big band had a Monday night gig at Birdland I had always known about it, but never seemed to find the time to go. It wasn't until I heard on NPR that she was calling it quits that I bought tickets to her last show, this time at Carnegie Hall. I had seen her husband, Lew Tabackin, in Pittsburgh while I was in college, leading a group that included Niels Henning Orsted-Pederson, and he was still in fine form. Akiyoshi's command of her big band was exact. At the end of the concert, the band members left one by one until it was just Akiyoshi and her husband. Then she stopped playing, bowed, and walked off, leaving Tabackin alone. He played his sax as he walked towards stage right. After he left, Akiyoshi waved from the stage door, then disappeared. Posted by eugene at

January 18, 2004

The Pretenders

While watching G.I. Jane over dinner, the one thing that struck me most (more so than the penultimate line, which was changed to "Suck my stick" for broadcast) was the Pretenders song playing over her training scenes. I'm sure I was familiar with the group growing up from classic rock radio. The usual songs, "Kid," "Brass in Pocket," etc. But I didn't take notice of them until I heard "My City Was Gone," played on some small independent radio station. I barely remember the song now, but there was something in that tune that made me take notice. Eventually, I bought the singles collection, and even thought about purchasing the live album that came out in 1995, but I never did find myself with Learning to Crawl. Though in the back of my mind I almost think I have a copy at my parents' house hidden away in a crate of vinyl. Posted by eugene at


Simmy just asked to borrow some of my Run-D.M.C. They were probably the first rap group I really got into. I remember staying up past midnight Friday nights listening to WCNI, 91.1, Connecticut College's campus radio station. When I was in junior high they'd have a three hour show of rap and hip hop music. That was where I first heard Doug E. Fresh's "The Show," was introduced to Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, and the entire Sugar Hill gang. I dreamed about acquiring my own wheels of steel, which never happened (though I do have one Technic's 1200 at the moment, thanks to a friend who moved to San Francisco and didn't feel like lugging it out there). Then I fell off off the ill tip; in college I missed the chance to see A Tribe Called Quest. I didn't even know who the native tongues were. It wasn't until the past few years that I've gone back to fill in the huge gap that I left. One summer back from college, Lauren gave me a Run-D.M.C. poster. She had picked it up from a record store that was throwing it away and said, "I remember you used to love these guys." It's true. And now that someone's sparked the memory, I am listening to them again and I remember why. R.I.P. Jam Master Jay. Posted by eugene at

Reason for being

I ran into Celvyn yesterday at Starbucks. He was feeding his gingerbread latte need. He blasted me for not posting on my link blog since Thursday. I told him to check my photoblog. Then I realized that I don't have a space for random musings. They don't fit on my link blog, and they have no reason to be on my photoblog. Hence this. We'll see how long it lasts. It's a more private roomination. Posted by eugene at


Basketball players have been invading my dreams. This has nothing to do with NBA Live 96, which I had been playing on an SNES emulator. I've fallen off that game. Or maybe it has because I've fallen off playing the game. They are never the main focus of the dream; they are always on the outskirts. And I never know who they are; just that they are NBA basketball players. I don't really know who the players are these days. Posted by eugene at

Dodge Dart

It's snowing now, having turned from rain about an hour ago. I was looking at photoblogs and saw a photograph of a "Dodge" logo, wrapping around the fender of a car. My father used to drive a Dodge Dart. Growing up, I hated the way the car smelled, though as I grew older, I came to like the way it looked. Later, I thought it would be the first car I would drive. Six months before I got my license, my father wrapped it around a tree. He wasn't driving very fast. He drives very carefully. But there was a blizzard and the car slid slowly off the road, into a yard, and into the tree. He backed up and drove it home, but in the end it was totalled. He bought a K-car after that. Posted by eugene at

New Order

Last night after saying goodbye to Kit—we had gone to Les Enfants Terrible, where the food was good but the service as tepid as the creme brulee—(part of me thinks we should have gone to SoHo billiards to continue our conversation about Elephant and Lost in Translation and the way in which things are presented or commented upon), I walked to Kim's underground. They were playing a New Order concert on the monitors. This morning I put on Substance upon getting up in the morning. Oddly, however, there's a huge gap between each song. I might have to switch to the Best of to maximize my New Order, eliminating gaps. Posted by eugene at

Dim Sum Dashed

Called s+d last night to see if they wanted to do dim sum this morning. I had dim sum yesterday, but I wasn't hungry enough and thus didn't get to eat as much as I might have liked. They said no. They were watching their waists. I asked where they were. They said 71 Irving, and I asked what they were having. "Chocolate cake." Posted by eugene at

Rainy Day

It's not such an exciting day today it seems. Just rolled out of bed. Have a coffee date at three. Not a date. Meeting a friend. Last night at 11.00 Charlotte called to see if I wanted to go to Chinatown for bubble tea. I had already been twice. For dim sum, and then for after-dinner dessert. I was warm in my apartment, lounging on the couch, and I said no. Maybe I should have said yes. I haven't seen her since she got back from Singapore. She's been busy, I've been busy, and now she's watching two dogs. One of which isn't house-broken. After we hung up I started reading Embers. I had told Cher I was planning on finishing the book last week. Maybe today. Posted by eugene at


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