grey marble

June 30, 2004


I've rediscovered the New York Public Library. They've redone the online catalog so you can now search and reserve using the website rather than launching a unix terminal, which helps. I just wish the hours were more convenient. I finally found the time to drop by my local branch and picked up Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, Fernand Braudel's A History of Civilizations, Alan Moore's Saga of the Swamp Thing, and also his V For Vendetta. Unfortunately I have only a month to get through it all. What am I doing this weekend? I'm reading! Posted by eugene at


Last night, Li-Ting invited me to a friend of a friend's house on the upper west side. He had invited people to watch Baraka on his roof.

I had seen the movie over ten years ago in Pittsburgh. I remembered only the shot of the snow monkey that opened the film and the whirling dervishes that closed it. Watching it again, I was surprised to see places I never would have imagined visiting as a college sophomore, but to which I now have been. In the opening montage I saw Angkor, Borobodur, Prambanan, Mount Bromo, Balinese rice fields, a Kekak dance performance at Goa Gajah. . . . And those places I haven't been I now hope to visit.

By the time we arrived, her friend had set up a dvd player and speakers. An LCD projector connected to the dvd player was aimed at a sheet taped to a wall. An ipod played soft music as introductions were made. Bottles of beer and cider were opened and passed around. The film started and we all settled back in lawn chairs or sprawled on the ground. A few stars shown in the clear sky above us. Airplanes blinked their way from east to west and back again. Buildings stood sentry over us. And with the city around us, the world unfolded before our eyes. Posted by eugene at

June 29, 2004


I've just returned from lunch at Eleven Madison Park. Restaurant week continues until Friday, and my friend Amy and I decided to take advantage of the $20.14 prix fixe menu. The best part of the meal was the vichyssoise. Anthony Bourdain writes about his first experience with the potato-based soup. Travelling as a child on a transatlantic ship with his mother, he was startled to find the soup was cold. The flavors then opened up a whole new world of food to him.

After reading his book, I had my first vichyssoise at Le Zinc. White wine over-powered the rest of the soup and the butter or cream wasn't properly melted or mixed into the broth. The Eleven Madison Park Vichyssoise was another thing altogether. The soup was refreshing and refined. Small cubes of house-smoked char dotted the broth, the meat offering a new texture and a complementary flavor.

Rounding out the meal, I had a halibut entree, which was good if not as great as the soup. The fish was tender, and well-prepared. Midway through the meal, executive chef Kerry Heffernan appeared in the dining room. He came to check on the table beside us, but stopped at ours and asked how we were enjoying the meal. We assured him it was excellent, whereupon he said, "Just wait for the dessert; that's why I come here." I chose the lemon tart, topped with merengue. Raspberries and blueberries were piled beside the cake, raspberry sorbet sat to one side.

With the check, our waiter brought us $20.04 coupons for our next visit and a chocolate bar in the shape of a leaf (their logo). "For later," he remarked. Amy had asked how much the regular menu differed, and the waiter told us the difference was significant. They would be unable to serve the same food at the restaurant week prices, he told us, and also noted that the price of most entrees was greater than our lunch. For restaurant week meals, they barely make cost. I checked the coupon and made a note to return before the end of August. Posted by eugene at

The Whitehouse Hotel of NY

Last night while walking up the Bowery I peeked into the Whitehouse Hotel. A friend remarked that she liked the sign, which was made up of New York subway symbols. As I pushed through the door a man walked in next to me. He smiled and said, "It's not a subway entrance."

The first time I walked past the hotel, I wanted to walk in and ask about its history. The hotel was run down, looking for all the world like a flophouse. Dishevelled men sat in the lobby, faces unshaved, clothes barely hanging from their lanky frames. A man lurched out in the street, and I moved on.

Last night the lobby was filled with young European backpackers. The man who had held open the door for me was from Gambia. He works sometimes at the hotel. His passion is travel, and works long enough to build up enough money to take off; he returns when his funds are near depleated. In August he's returning to Africa for six weeks, first to visit his family and then to travel around the area.

He told me a Jewish man had bought the place and renovated it as a hotel for travellers. He brought me to a map For the summer, the rooms cost $34.50 for a single, $69.00 for a double, bathroom down the hall. The rooms are small. He unlocked a luggage closet and told me the rooms were about that same size. A single bed could fit snugly in the space with about a foot between the door and the frame.

When I left I wished him well on his travels. We shook hands and he disappeared into a back room. Later I looked at the hotel's website. A picture of Bill Clinton appears in the corner. A blue speech bubble rises from his mouth. It reads: "Hillary and I enjoyed staying at the Whitehouse and you will too!" Posted by eugene at

June 28, 2004


I just saw Fahrenheit 9/11. It's a bit of a sprawling mess, with flashes of brilliance. It's never less than interesting. The framing device is great, and the way in which the events of 9/11 are presented is amazing. After the barrage of images, the film presents the World Trade Center attacks in a surprisingly new way, forcing you to re-experience it on your own terms. While Michael Moore intrudes on the film a little too much in the first hour, at least he's introducing something new to the public debate. I just hope that his personality doesn't upstage the issues.

I've finished reading A Cook's Tour by Anthony Bourdain. Ostensibly the sequel to Kitchen Confidential, it's a travel book sent home in a doggie bag. Whereas KC deals with his passions close to home, explicating the process of becoming a reknown New York chef, A Cook's Tour merely takes his interest in food on the road. There's less exploration into what drives the kitchen and more explanation of the foods that he eats. The book makes me salivate for something meatier, and for the food that he's sampling. It's like reading the menu without the rewards of ordering and tasting the food.

I'm listening to the Beastie Boys' To the 5 Boroughs. It's a stripped down old skool affair, filtered through the experiments of the Neptunes and the golden age reinventions of Missy Elliott/Timbaland. Their voices are raw and showing their age, but the music moves.

Everyone's talking about the new Wilco, but I don't hear it. I loved Yankee Hotel Foxtrot but the new album leaves me somewhat cold. I'll have to give it another spin perhaps and see what I think then. Posted by eugene at

June 27, 2004

Catch the Bride

This morning I ran four miles. It's the first time I've run that distance. The event was created by Guillemette to culiminate a weekend of wedding festivites. The bride in question was Lin, a marathon runner. The only criteria was that you could not beat the bride. I had no troubles fulfilling that requirement.

I was surprised to find my name on the list of participants. G. told me I had no choice in the matter. I was surprised again to learn the run was four miles; originally, I had thought the distance was in kilometers.

The weekend was given over to a series of events celebrating Lin and Michael's wedding. Friday afternoon, Guillemette called me from the municipal building, asking me if I knew in which room the wedding was to be held. I told her I didn't know and that I was under the impression it was a small affair attended only by her family and a small group of friends. The ceremony was over in 90 seconds.

That evening, friends and family gathered at the SoHo Grand for drinks. They were staying in the hotel, though Lin told me later that her parents' room in Millenium Hilton was bigger and better. The room at the Grand did not immediately impress. The bed was small; the television unimpressive. The bathroom was nice, however. And Michael later commented how fun it is to stay in a hotel not on personal business. "You can leave a mess and someone else takes care of it!"

That night and the next day I met various college friends of Lin's and Jean's whose names I had often heard but never knew. They had flown in from California to attend the wedding. Many had Patty in common, leaving me to wonder if everybody at Stanford knew everyone, or whether Patty happened to know everyone.

A brunch reception was held on Saturday in the garden behind Paradou. Rain sprinkled the morning, but the afternoon was glorious. Toasts were made, speeches given. Lin's assumed theme was "change." She subtly avoided politics while overemphasizing and repeating the word in her toast. She segued into toasting Ed, still in Baghdad. Her father gave a toast; his father gave a toast. Guillemette left jars of delicious home-made peach jam on the tables as favors. Then she handed out T-shirts for the fun run. Her aunt had illustrated a nimble Lin running in front of a long-limbed Michael.

We left the restaurant to discover their car had developed a flat. We quickly taught ourselves to change it and put on the spare. Jean took pictures. The tire changed, Michael left to meet his friends; Lin's parents wandered off with their newly found long lost friends; and Jean, Janice, Lin, and I shopped in the Meatpacking district.

The clothes are beautiful; the prices are beyond my allowance. We stopped at a Brazillian-born Korean designer's boutique. She brought out dresses and skirts and pants for them to try. Janice held back. Jean tried on two beautiful dresses; Lin a series of skirts. At Scoop, Janice found a pink long sleeved T (she claims to shop only when she comes to New York, and then only with Lin and Jean). At Stella McCartney, we browsed. At Alexander McQueen, Lin found a great black suit with oversized stitching. The cost was two thousand dollars. Jean tried on a cool jacket and then a not so cool one. An attendant noted that they had just started carrying men's clothes. I pased.

At bokum we sat and shared a large French-press of coffee. We talked about family. Jean decided she didn't need to buy a four cup French press; she could just fill her 8 cup press half-way. Outside, the afternoon wore on.

Nearing seven, we parted. Jean and Janice went home to change (Steve had left after brunch). I accompanied Lin to her hotel and then to dinner at Nyonya. Michael arrived shortly after us with his friends and parents in tow. We ate.

The dinner began with roti canai and beef satay. Then jumbo prawns butterflied and fried, nasi lemak (the coconut rice cone-shaped in the middle), tofu casserole, sauteed convolus, ribs, and a half of a Hainan chicken. We were due at the High bar atop the Gramercy Hotel at nine-thirty, and at nine-fifteen we said goodnight to Michael's parents and started uptown.

The bar had the feeling of someone's patio. If there were a grill and someone barbecuing it would have completed the scene. Astroturf covered the floor, plants clung to the walls. Plexiglass rose up from the low brick wall. The night was clear and cool. A heat lamp warmed a corner of the deck.

The bar started filling up, Jean commented on the untucked striped shirt look that the majority of the guys sported. We commiserated along with Steve over the lack of options in men's apparel. As the hour grew late, the median age dropped significantly. Jean wondered if some of the kids were still in high school.

Around one a.m. the last of the party got up to leave. A number of people had flights early in the morning, and then there were those of us who were running this morning.

We met in the park around 10.30. Guillemette had made a picnic of pink foods. She had been up until one in the morning cooking, then got up at seven to complete the meal. Salmon cake, rice with beets, a pasta dish, shrimp chips, mochi, strawberry Pocky, two strawberry and lemon tarts, a coconut tart, and a peach tart were laid out on a pink tablecloth. But there was still the run looming ahead of us.

Last night I had had a nightmare about the run. I sat in a grey diner overlooking the park. Entrants in the fun run came and went. A gaping hole stood by the side of the steep path. A light rain began to fall, seemingly both inside and outside the diner. When I stepped outside, I was inappropriately dressed. And then I awoke.

I had thought to walk the run with Janice until I heard she had hired a personal trainer to prepare for the run. She later said she won the trainer in an auction. We both believe in ebay, though I think the trainer came from a charity auction. Pia counted off as we lined up by a cone. I ran the first two miles and then walked/ran the last two. Guillemette claims this is a good training technique. A triathalon was underway along the 72nd traverse and I gasped alongside men running faster than I ever could after already having run two or three times the total distance of my meagre distance.

Reaching the finish line, Lauren expressed concern for me. She had thought I would be lost. I asked if I were last and was told no. I determined to return to the course and finish later. Lin ran back a ways with me and told me to run behind her for a picture. Each contestant will be presented of a photograph of him or her finishing behind Lin. In my case, I wouldn't even be in the frame, were it not staged for my benefit.

Afterwards we ate and sat in the park. Today is perfect. Small cumulus clouds dot the otherwise clear blue skies. It's cool in the shade, warm but not hot in the sun. I helped Lin and Michael load the car. They drove south with her parents, Guillemette in tow. The food was fantastic, the run surprisingly fun. But whether that means I'll be training with Lin for her next marathon remains to be seen. I like my knees and toenails, and I'd like to keep them.

Congrats again to the bride and groom. It was a great weekend and a great wedding. Posted by eugene at

June 26, 2004

An afternoon at the Met

This afternoon I went to the Met. There are two new exhibits I wanted to see: the August Sandler photographs and the Andy Goldsworthy sculpture on the roof. The former was good, a series of portraits that functioned as an ethnological as well as photographic studies. The Goldsworthy was sublime, constructed of two split wood domes, each housing a perfectly stacked series of stones. It is the first sculpture commissioned specifically for the roof of the Met.

After viewing the exhibits I took a bus downtown, hoping to catch a matinee showing of Fahrenheit 9/11. At the theatre on 11th and 3rd, the film was sold out until midnight. On 19th and Broadway it was sold out until 9pm. Unable to commit to such times (it was only four in the afternoon) I went home. Posted by eugene at

June 25, 2004

Wedding crashers

This morning Guillemette called. She was looking for a wedding. She asked me if I knew what time or in what room Lin's wedding was in. She had decided on the spur of the moment to ride her bike down to City Hall to observe the festivities. I told her I didn't know. She told me she was stopping every Asian bride she could find. She told me she'd keep looking and call me back if I wanted to join.

When she found them, the wedding party turned out to be a small group. Immediate family and one or two close friends. She said they were just signing the contract. I text messaged L. to wish her "congratulations." I assumed she'd be too busy to talk on the phone. I told G. I'd see her tomorrow at the brunch and we hung up. The new Mr. and Mrs. Wu. to be announced. Posted by eugene at

June 24, 2004

The Belgian Congo and sushi

Mimi assured me she wasn't attending the performance in a professional capacity. We were at La Mama for the New York premiere of Blind Ness: The Irresistible Light of Encounter, an experimental theatre piece adaptation of Heart of Darkness. The show lacked an emotional core, playing more as a history lesson of Belgium's subjugation of the Congo. While interesting, the piece went on too long, unfortunately becoming overbearing and didactic towards the end.

The evening was a benefit for Ping Chong's theater company. Wine and hors d'oeuvres appeared afterwards, and Mimi and I snacked. Soon, hunger got the better of us and M. went to see if her friend wanted her to meet anyone. Her obligations filled, we left for dinner.

Too far from Sapporo East, we decided on Shiki, with its blend of Brazilian sushi. The restaurant is named after the head sushi chef, a retired boxer. Paper cuts decorate the wall, from island views and exotic animals to masks of George W. Bush. M. told me that he and the waitress are always there. The waitress, her hair cropped short and bleached blonde, always makes her finish her plate. I said we should be careful what we order.

For dinner we shared three rolls, one with banana fritters, another with mango accents. They were enormous and good. M. told me that last summer while unemployed she had wanted to learn how to become a sushi chef. She interviewed chefs at every sushi bar in the city, trying to learn what she could. Finally one chef offered to teach her. She would work with him in the evenings. He told her it would take her two weeks to learn the basics after seeing her knife work (she grew up in her parents' restaurant). But then, as her apprenticeship was about to begin, she found a job. Posted by eugene at

June 22, 2004


For my birthday, Kee took me to Olive's, where she knows the head pastry chef. Her crab cake appetizer was fantastic; her Mediterranean sea bass was simple, and therefore not as notable. The lobster that accompanied it was good, however. I had a shaved artichoke heart salad that was too cheezy, and a duck that was perfectly cooked. And then we had dessert. The pastry chef sent out four.

By far was the selection of seasonal soberts. Lemon and mango sorbets sat on crisp wafers floating on a pool of tapioca. The sorbets were incredibly refreshing, the fruit ripe on the tongue. Next was the warm chocolate pudding cake. The chocolate pudding was thick and bitter and rich. The warm cake stood in the center, a dollop of chocolate ice cream melting upon its surface. Three bites and I was full.

The caramelized banana bread proved surprisingly light and flakey, rather than dense. The bread was sandwiched between layers of crisp dough. Butter pecan ice cream melted on the side above banana fritters.

Last on the list was the peanut butter molten cake, which came with milk chocolate ice cream and delicious ice milk. The latter was set on top of a thin chocolate wafer supported by chocolate peanut butter columns. The cake was good, but the mixture of peanut butter and chocolate soon proved a little too much. It ended up last on our list, but only because the other desserts were so incredibly fantastic. I'm not eating dessert for at least two weeks. Posted by eugene at

June 21, 2004

Le Zinc taking applications now

It's another beautiful day today. This morning I did laundry and cleaned. Unfortunately I didn't have time to finish. A client called at 11, and then I had lunch plans with Abigail at one. We went to Le Zinc. The sandwiches were very tasty. Art posters cover the walls. There were few people eating in the restaurant, but a steady stream of people walked through the doors. They were hiring hostesses and buspeople. The hostess would give them an application, ask for a resume, then tell them she would be right with them. I'm not sure where the ad was posted, or if there was a particular time they were asked to appear. Soon, the restaurant was filled with people crouched over their applications.

Last night Lynda told me she has a friend who might be looking for a job for the summer. We passed a fish and chips place on 5th Avenue in Park Slope that was hiring. She said her friend might be a shoe-in (he's British). "Because he has the accent?" I asked. "Maybe," she answered. "Everyone in there has the accent." Posted by eugene at

June 20, 2004

Park Slope Promenade

I've just returned from Park Slope. Lynda took me out to dinner to thank me for watching her cats this weekend. She's trained them well; they were well behaved. What makes it even easier is that she's taught them to use the toilet.

We ate at Nana's, a Japanese restaurant on 5th Avenue, which offers very fresh sushi and sashimi. After dinner we walked along the avenue, searching for dessert options. L pointed out the hipster bars, the expensive restaurants, and the incongruity of a Pink Pussycat Boutique opposite the local High School. When we reached the OTB store, she stopped and pointed to her old apartment. It's empty at the moment, because it's illegal. She had battled with the landlord over the space, withholding fourth months rent before leaving. The other floors also looked vacant. She told me that the tenants had held out as long as they could before leaving to avoid having to pay the back rent. If the building is brought to code while the tenant is still in the space, the landlord can sue for back rent. I said I should try to find a situation like that. L told me I could; she still has a set of keys to the place.

Walking back towards her apartment we returned to Nana's for dessert. The waitress was surprised to see us. I told L that I thought our waitress had a smile like Wallace from Wallace and Gromit. She told me my impersonation was closer to the real thing. As the sun set, the clouds looked as if they were stripped from a painting by Maxfield Parish. Near her home, L told me that was her favorite painter. Posted by eugene at

June 19, 2004

Fast Food Nation

I've just finished reading Fast Food Nation. Amy lent it to me. She hasn't read it yet because she's not ready to give up eating fast food. I told her I'd read it and let her know whether she has cause worry. She should worry. The book is well researched and reasoned. In an afterword, the author includes negative criticism of his book, and does a good job of defusing it. In the final chapter he discusses In'n'Out burger and its successes not only in the financial sense but also in the quality of its food. I wish they'd start conquering the east coast.

The book is not just an Upton Sinclair endictment of the meatpacking industry, but illustrates how powerful lobbies have influenced public policy for the worst, and how fast food companies have managed to acquire public funding for their private gains. In the end, MacDonald's proves to have greater power over safe food practices in the beef industry than the government. MacDonald's boasts they have the "world's largest shopping cart." Unfortunately, they don't use their clout altruistically to improve the health of the public, but only in reaction to public outcry and public relations disasters. And that is where Eric Schlosser tells us the hope lies. In this capitalistic society, the businessmen will offer what sells. It is up to the public to decide that what they buy should be healthy and safe. MacDonald's et al will cater to what sells. And though marketshare hasn't increased much lately, their hamburgers still manage a brisk business.

[Listening to Quannum Spectrum.] Posted by eugene at

June 17, 2004

Orange Kit Kat

Ki.Hu is back from London, if briefly. She came over to visit this evening and brought me a birthday gift: a bag full of limited edition orange Kit Kat. Six years ago I had visited London; it was my first visit to Europe. I had just moved to New York and was still in thrall of that city. As a result, London didn't leave much of an impression upon me. The trip did offer my first glimpse at Paris, however. A few years later I would find myself between jobs, spending a week in that fair city.

One thing I do remember was the packaging of Kit Kat bars and the orange Kit Kat they had in London. The day before I was to come back to the States, I went looking to buy them in bulk to bring back as gifts; I couldn't find any. When Ki.Hu asked what I wanted from London I knew immediately. They're now cooling in my refrigerator. Posted by eugene at


A bar/lounge occupies the space at 163 Allen Street. Called People, it's a long cavernous box, where the music runs the gamut of 80's hip hop and synth bands to modern electronica. A bartender and a waiter are all that made up the staff this particular Wednesday. When I walked in a small party of four sat by the windows looking out onto the street. I had to walk father back into the bar to find my friend Li.Le., who sat with two of her friends half hidden in an alcove. The eight of us were the only patrons.

The bartender tells me they have been open for a year. He has worked there since its inception. It has its good nights and bad, he said. Tonight was a bad night. He blames it on the summer and the fact that everyone is travelling. He hasn't seen his regulars in three weeks. On the weekends, he tells me they're not generally so busy. The tourists seem to stick to the west side and midtown. But when a tourist wanders in, he tells me it's obvious they're not from around here.

Li.Le. is about to leave for Barcelona. She's studying painting there for a month, after which she plans to tour south and western Europe. She's just graduated from a design program and is trying to decide what to do with this next year. She's thinking of a master's program the year following. It's strange, but I feel again I'm at a point where I'm rethinking what I want to be doing, the problem being that I never really figured it out in the first place. Or maybe it has to do with the passing of another year. I do find my curiosity rising.

Tonight I'm listening to Franz Ferdinand. Posted by eugene at

June 16, 2004

Wet hot heat

It's humid in New York, something I'm suddenly no longer used to. The days have been overcast and grey. Already I pine for the long afternoons of southern California where, even if the day started cloudy, by three it was clear. The sun as it set stretched your shadow until your head reached clear to the horizon.

I bought moisturizer yesterday. Cetaphil has ever so slightly changed their logo. Or maybe I just don't remember exactly how it used to look. Somehow it seems slightly more svelete. H. told me I didn't need it; it was the summer. My skin was dry from my trip(s), however, and I wanted to help it gain some moisture back. I shouldn't have bothered. By afternoon, the dewpoint rose and I could feel it spread from my nose to the rest of my face. I guess I can save it until the winter. Or until I find myself back on sunnier shores. The threat of rain lingers from now until Saturday. It's two a.m. and the temperature and humidity both hover around 80. Posted by eugene at

June 13, 2004

Red eye blues

I flew back from San Jose with a German Shephard under my legs. She was a good dog; her owner was returning to the east coast for three weeks to check on her house on Montauk. She had lived in New Jersey for almost thirty years until IBM transferred her husband out to San Jose. Her husband now works for an infrared visioning company that sells their technology to the military. She had purchased the house as a rental property ten years ago and has a steady clientele. For the past five years she has had the same summer tenant. In the fall she has a fisherman who has also been a consistent seasonal tenant for the past five years.

On boarding the plane, the head flight attendant told us that we were flying "Cool Blue." I hadn't realized that all of jetBlue's planes were named. He told us his favorite planes were "Bippity-boppity-blue" and another whose name I forget. I tried to sleep, unsuccessfully. CNN's headline news cycled through the same news for the duration of the flight. I listened to Madvillain and Prince. Coincidentally, my last meal in California was at a Mediterranean restaurant where I had falafel; my first meal on this protracted trip was also falafel.

Arriving home, I found it a mess. Mold clung to the bathtub and much as I wanted to shower, I decided to just go to sleep. I woke this afternoon and managed to score tickets to see Prince at MSG a month from today. Things are looking up slightly. Posted by eugene at

June 12, 2004

113 and 130

The sidewalks around Cupertino are pristine. The concrete is barely scuffed, there's not a crack in the surface. I think it's because no one uses them.

I walked to Cupertino Village today from my aunt's house. It's a little over a mile. I didn't see another soul walking. I passed a bowling alley on the corner of Homestead and Stelling and called my cousin to see if she'd be interested in a few frames later. She said yes.

In the village, I had tea with B. We had emailed a few times, but had never met. We first were introduced on Orkut through a China or a Shanghai message board. Coincidentally, she had recently returned from a short vacation there. We had talked about various places of interest and itineraries and I was curious to hear what she thought and to see her pictures. She told me her photos were all digital and that she kept them on her laptop, which she neglected to bring.

We sat for an hour asking each other about our recent trips and talking about the future. She's moving to Boston soon, and I told her I was thinking of moving to the west coast. We'd be switching sides. She would rather stay in California, but school is stealing her away. She had spent four years in Boston in college, and she tells herself that she will only be there for another two. It's the winters that bring her down.

She drank her tea and I a mango slush. I was afraid I wouldn't recognize her from her picture, but she had recognized me in line. She was taller than her photo had let on. After an hour or so she had to leave. She had work to finish and was hoping to visit her parents. She offered to drive me home and I accepted; the trip home took significantly less time.

After dinner and walking the dog I met my cousin on the corner and we walked to the bowling alley. In college I had friends who owned their own bowling balls. My cousin told me she once had had her own shoes. I was convinced she was an excellent bowler, but she disavowed me of the notion. She told me she had to purchase the shoes since she was unwilling to wear those for rent. The alley was in Taiwan and the shoes were only $10.

The last time I bowled was at Bowlmor lanes on University. It was TuLi's brother's birthday. I couldn't break 100. Tonight I did much better, bowling a strike on each of my first frames. Subsequent frames were less impressive, though at the end of each game I saw my score hit triple digits. My cousin broke 100 for the first time in her second game, scoring a 104. Posted by eugene at

June 10, 2004

Tea and Coffee

Last night I met up with SuTi and went to dinner. She warned me about the porridge place she had picked out. She said the staff yells at her almost every time she goes for ordering out of order. First you sit, she told me. Then you walk up to the counter and order your side dishes while they put porridge on the table. Then you don't pay but sit and eat. And then you go back up to the counter to pay. Duly warned, I stepped lightly.

Afterwards, we went to a Harvard mentoring event, where professionals were looking to find mentors in their field for career advice and advancement. It was mainly a networking event. There were few people who put themselves in the media category when choosing their professional affiliation. One woman had recently left the Wall Street Journal. An unrelated woman had just completed her Ph.D. in virology. She was looking to find a job in the fertile field of biotech. I found myself behind the sign in table, registering guests. I told SuTi that I'd go by her place and repaint the walls today.

The event was held in Arthur's, a restaurant in Santa Clara associated with a hotel. The carpet was in dire need of disposal. The speaker seemed to chide the attendees, telling the crowd that those who need mentoring are inner city children from broken homes. She told them that if a kid managed to get to Harvard and graduate and find a job, they were probably going to be alright. Posted by eugene at

June 9, 2004

Cooking with gas

I had dinner this evening with Matt Brailey and his wife and two of his friends. He made London broil with his own special marinade. His wife is seven months pregnant. I've known Matt since junior high school, but I haven't seen him in years. The last time was a snowy day when he was visiting New York. It was a miserably cold day and after wandering around the Times Square area, we took a train down to University and had sushi.

His house is a craftsman home built in the arts and crafts style. It dates back to around 1912. The living room and dining room are beautiful. The rest of the house wraps around these rooms. Their second floor functions as a separate apartment. They're currently renting it out to a friend of theirs. The occupant is engaged, but as a strict Roman Catholic won't cohabitate with her fiance until he is her husband.

Dinner was delicious. The asparagus was especially tasty, and Matt taught me how to know where to cut the stalks (you cut at the breaking point). He also introduced me to a magazine called Cook's Illustrated, which he described as the Consumer Reports of cooking. They try variations on recipes in order to create the best final result. Along the way they describe their methods and why various attempts work or don't. I'm thinking of subscribing and amassing my own collection. Matt warned me that it works best for western dishes; the more ethnic attempts are somewhat half-hearted. Posted by eugene at

June 8, 2004

An afternoon reunion

Today I had my first In'n'Out burger. The first time I visited my cousin in California maybe ten years ago he raved about the burgers. He told me that before I left I had to try them. We never did. Today, SuTi helped me realize that dream.

I hadn't seen SuTi in years. We were friends in high school. I was her date to her senior prom; if it wasn't for her I would never have been to a high school prom. The night of our prom I was singing in the all-state choir. In college we lost touch, though we kept one good friend in common. Four or five years ago she was in New York for a few days and I invited her to stay with me. I was about to leave for France on a week's vacation, and I remember spending very little time with her, unfortunately.

In general, her memory is much better than mine. She surprised me by telling me I had told her that there were no school buses in Idaho Falls. I apparently told her they had experimented with them for one day but it was a disaster. I have no recollection of the incident, let alone passing the anecdote onto her. She surprised me again by remembering my birthday. Hers is at the end of the month.

She picked me up at 11 and we went to Hobee's for brunch. She managed to get one of the waitresses in trouble after she asked the head waitress for more coffee. There was a confusion over the color of her coffee mug and her request for decaffinated coffee. Afterwards, we drove to Stanford to see the Andy Goldsworthy piece installed in front of the Cantor museum. She had thought to take me to an Egyptian museum in San Jose, but our friend told her to take me to Stanford.

With time left on our meter we wandered the Rodin sculpture garden and then walked to the Stanford Memorial Church. While I had been to the campus when I was in high school, I don't remember touring the church. The interior is beautiful. SuTi had been to a number of weddings there, and pointed to the spot where couples inevitably light the unity candle. Then we adjourned to her house to sit and look at photos of her wedding and her trip to London with PaKa.

Her house is beautiful and tastefully decorated. It rests on the edge of Sunnyvale, just on the border with Cupertino. She resides just over a mile from my aunt. Her lawn is comparatively huge. A trellis hangs over her patio and as we sat pouring over her wedding album we were pelted with unripe fruit, shaken from the vine by the wind. Posted by eugene at

June 7, 2004

An afternoon in San Francisco

I took the CalTrain into San Francisco today. When I arrived at the station I learened the train was free this weekend in celebration of their new "Baby Bullet" service. As a result the cars were packed. Children ran down the aisles screaming.

I had lunch with YuTa. She moved back to the city a week ago, after finding a job with a manga publisher. She had lived in New York for a couple of years, but it never took. We sat on an outdoor terrace overlooking the Yerba Buena Arts Center. The lawn was cordoned off, supposedly for a private function. A man performed on a makeshift stage, creating beats and culling samples from his body. Three people sat on the lawn before him.

After lunch I visited the SFMoMA, primarily for the Larry Sultan exhibition. The series "focuses on the San Fernando Valley, where he grew up, and addresses the use of ordinary homes as sets for pornographic films." By pulling back on the action, he is able both to comment on and re-represent the fantasies inherent in the adult film industry. Some creepier photographs incorporate reflected images or shadowy presences that reinforce the voyeuristic nature of pornography while others manage to capture intimate moments lost in the exhibitionist performances on film and video.

With time to spare I walked down Market street to the Civic Center to visit San Francisco's new Asian Art Museum. While the collection boasts some impressive pieces, the presentation leaves something to be desired. Or maybe I'm spoiled having visited the Shanghai Museum of Ancient Chinese art.

Links: Larry Sultan at SFMoMA, Asian Art Museum of San Francisco Posted by eugene at

June 5, 2004

Taiwan revisited

Ten years ago I was introduced to a cousin of mine in Taiwan. Her younger sister wouldn't speak to me. She said I didn't speak Chinese well enough. I was in Taiwan on an exchange program of sorts and on the occasional weekend that I was free my cousin would take me to movies or to lunch. The first time we went to a movie she asked me what I wanted to see. She listed off a number of Hollywood blockbusters. I said I wanted to see a Chinese movie. She was shocked. "No one sees Chinese movies," she told me. "Everyone waits for them to show on t.v." But I was in Taiwan and wanted to see a Chinese movie and so she picked one at random. Years later I would realize the film was He's a Woman She's A Man starring Leslie Cheung. When I saw it in Taiwan it reminded me of a number of John Hugues movies.

Yesterday, my parents told me she was living in Cupertino. She had been in New York for a year and was now living with her aunt around the corner. She had found a job and was planning to stay in California for a year before returning to Taiwan. They had visited yesterday when I was napping. My father called her aunt and gave them my phone number. She called me last night.

Today we saw each other for the first time in ten years. We met at a Starbucks, and I was surprised how easily I remembered her. We drank coffee, then wandered a flea market set up in the parking lot of De Anza College. Neither of us had a car and so we just wandered around close by. She then took me to another aunt's house, a woman I later realized I knew. The aunt used to live in Boston and had visited our house in Connecticut a number of times with her three daughters. They had moved to Taiwan when I was in junior high, and then moved to California. I had seen them intermittently in the intervening years, but not often enough to recognize her immediately. Her eldest daughter is now in med school. Her second daughter was home from college, and her youngest was studying for her finals.

We sat around the kitchen table and ate melon seeds and drank tea, chatting now in English, now in Chinese. Later we wrapped dumplings. They were delicious.

My cousin walked me back home; she was afraid I'd get lost. Once back at my my aunt's house we had leftover birthday cake (tiramisu). My cousin MaKu called to wish me a happy birthday. I told her she was a day late. She said she had somehow transposed her birthday calendar incorrectly. We chatted and then she had to prepare for the 11 o'clock newscast. I found my cousin watching a Chinese variety show with my aunt and grandmother. I didn't get most of the jokes, but she was laughing uproariously. And then it was time to go.

I put a leash on my aunt's dog and walked my cousin halfway home. At Stelling Stelling Boulevard I had to say goodbye. The dog refused to cross the street. I had asked my cousin if she was interested in going into San Francisco tomorrow with me but I forgot to remind her. She ran across the street; the dog pulled in the other direction. By the time I turned to watch her go, she was already gone. Posted by eugene at

June 4, 2004

Age ain't nuthin' but a number

[accidentally deleted] Posted by eugene at

Indonesian dreams

I'm eating a papaya. It reminds me of Bali. In Ubud, I had attempted to stay at a hotel recommended in my guidebook. It was full, but the owner suggested another set of bungalows next door to his. It was recently opened, and I was one of the first guests. Every morning a Balinese woman would bring me breakfast on the verandah. Fruit always accompanied my meal. Papaya was one of several that rotated during the days I spent there.

On the Royal Jordanian flight back from Amman one of the flight attendants was Indonesian. When I asked why she had decided to move to Amman she told me it was a mistake. She had applied for the job when the airline still had a route to Jakarta, where she is from. A friend was applying for the job and cajoled her into applying with her. She got the job; her friend did not. Shortly thereafter, the Jakarta route was cancelled. By then she had already moved to Amman.

She tells me she would like to find a job with another airline, one that flies through Indonesia, but she doesn't have the time to look. Her schedule is booked, and she has only a week or two of vacation. During that time she returns to Jarkarta to see her family and visit her friends.

She asked me what Bahasa I knew, and I racked my brain for the few words I remembered. Selamat pagi, terima kasi, jalan jalan. I had saved one phrase for when we landed, but I didn't get the chance to wish her salamat tinggal, farewell to one who is staying. Posted by eugene at

June 3, 2004

Cold Stone Creamery

There's a Cold Stone Creamery next to the park near my aunt's house. I discovered it while walking her dog. The cashier asked me if I wanted the "love it" or "really love it" size. I said I wanted the "like it size." She said that the "love it" size was only fifty cents more for twice as much ice cream. What can I say? I just ate too much. :-/ Posted by eugene at

Mama Juana

While dancing PaKa told me she felt like she was on vacation. I asked her if it was that moment, and she said it was whenever she went salsa dancing. Look around you, she said. Doesn't it feel like you're on vacation? "I am on vacation," I said. She said, "Oh." Posted by eugene at

Catching up with . . .

At ten fifteen yesterday morning I had expected to board Amtrak's Starlight train for the trip from Los Angeles to San Jose. It was delayed. And so we all sat in Union Station for another hour waiting for our train to pull in. The ten hour trip stretched to twelve as delays continued. I read and napped and walked between the cars. Just behind the dining car, a special car was equipped with floor to ceiling windows and skylights. As the train moved north of Santa Barbara, it began hugging the coast. The ocean stretched out to the west of the train, mountains rose to the east.

As we made our way further and further north, the train turned inland. Farmland and small towns replaced the rugged coast. We passed by San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles. By the time we arrived in Salinas, the moon was rising. It loomed just above the station, a large orange globe. And still we had hours to go.

The night before, my friend P.K. had taken me to the Disney concert hall. Inside, it looked as if at any moment Stravinsky would walk out with Mickey Mouse. Outside, it was beautiful. The grand exterior belies the intimate interior, however. My friend took me on a tour of the environs, pointing out the exterior ampitheatres and the tulip sculpture made of Mrs. Disney's cheap blue china.

We stayed for one song. It was a program of new music. We were late, and after hearing the world premiere of an avante garde piece, we decided to leave. My friend told me that she was spoiled. Having had access to so much music, she told me she no longer feels she has to stay at a show to get her money's worth. Unless she's really into the show at hand, she'll leave after just sampling what the music has to offer.

We drove to Mama Juanas, a salsa club some twenty minutes away. My friend disappeared to change her pants and shoes and I just watched the dance floor. Later, she told me that three of LA's top salsa instructors were at the club. One, Walter, was a former Power Ranger, who had won the latest salsa competition at the Conga Room. She told me that midway through the performance, he dipped his partner and then ran and did a flip over her. His former partner now has a hot choclate drink named after her in Japan. My friend pointed out Alex and told me that he travels the world giving lessons, and then introduced me to Ken, who I didn't have the pleasure to watch dance.

P. introduced me to her circle of salsa friends. One had won a pro/am ballroom competition after she had started dancing at 28. She had never danced before. Not at parties, not at clubs, never. In a corner sat an actor who had been part of the cast of ER. He got up to dance, and then he was gone. By ten it was time to go. P. had to work in the morning and I had to pack.

That day I had done little. I slept late and then SoLe called. I had called her a day or two before to tell her I had returned to L.A. She had been in Vegas all weekend at a bachelorette party, and then Sunday night had attended an all night trance party in the forest. Her car was a mess. She told me she was in Hollywood and I looked at a map. She was just around the corner.

We had lunch in Koreatown. She told me about her family's plans to go to Yosemite that weekend and I devoured my beef noodle soup. She had just had an interview and I asked her about the magazines I had seen in the car. We talked about this and that and then drove around looking for a nice place to have coffee on Melrose, passing the gates to the Paramount Pictures lot.

The latter half of last week was devoted to family. I took the train down to San Diego from Los Angeles on Wednesday to visit a cousin who had just bought a house there. His wife M.L. had just become the weekend anchor for the CBS affiliate there. The house was nice; their dogs were well behaved.

Thursday night we drove back up to L.A. to attend my cousin's rehearsal dinner. M.L. had to work that night and so we were late. The traffic was light, however, and we made good time. We arrived as the final dishes were being served, but our parents had saved us food from each course that had gone by. And so we ate our Chinese banquet out of styrofoam take out containers.

The wedding itself was in a beautiful location, at the Catalina room in Palos Verdes. The area had once been Marineland, the precursor to Sea World, and the parking lot had the look of an abandoned site. The wedding itself was held on a grassy cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

The evening felt as if it was on fast forward. Almost as soon as we arrived the ceremony started. Then it was time for pictures, and then dinner. Dancing was curtailed due to a noise ordinance, and suddenly I was back at my cousin D.F.'s house. She had a full house, hosting four families with six kids ranging in age from one and a half to eight. Each night we stayed up until two or three talking; by seven a.m. we would be up again as the kids raced around the house.

On Saturday, the remaining cousins at D.F.'s house went on a tour of L.A. On Rodeo Drive we stopped in an art gallery where one of the sales reps tried to sell my high school cousin a painting. We had walked in to see a series of Warhols, but an up and coming painter caught D.H.'s eye. The Warhols were edging six figures; the painting D. had his eye on was a much more affordable $1700. After walking the drive, we got the cars out from the only public parking space with valet parking and drove to Hollywood. We stopped at Mann's Theatre and then walked into the Kodak Theatre pavillion where future Oscar ceremonies will take place. The names of all the best picture winners are placed on columns leading up the main walkway. Looking back towards the street, slots are left for films up until 2070. To the right of the theatre is a new mall. We ordered snacks from California Pizza Kitchen and then drove up to Griffith Observatory.

Unfortunately it was closed and under construction. We walked up to a small park just above the parking lot and ate. The sun had set and the lights were coming on across the city. But moments later, we were kicked out. The park closed at dusk. We quickly finished and then walked back to the car, pausing to admire the view.

The wedding weekend over, my cousins one by one left for the airport. Each of their flights were delayed. My friend P.K. picked me up and I bid a final adieu. We drove to Anaheim to walk the new pedestrian mall just outside of Disneyland. On stepping onto the property she asked me if I felt instantly happy; I did a jig. She took me to a House of Blues and we ate boston creme pie and banana bread pudding and sweet potato fries. I had just had a breakfast of pancakes. We ate and then told each other we were going to be sick.

P.K. pointed out that the hotel was built in the craftsman style, a design that had become popular in southern California in the early 1900s. We walked into the lobby to tour the area. It felt like a lodge. We walked up to the fireplace and sat in rockers by the fire until we almost fell asleep. It was dark, the fire was warm; air conditioning cooled the area.

D.R.'s cousins called and told me they were at a jazz concert in Pasadena and so we drove up from Anaheim. It was a part of the Playboy Jazz fest, and while we didn't recognize the name MALT, my friend P. knew the band that started soon after we arrived. They had played various swing clubs, and as that fad waned, they reinvented themselves as a salsa band. T.B. got us into a VIP area, and for the most part we sat in the shade chatting while the music played. Then P. asked me if I wanted to dance. We found a clear patch of ground just inside the VIP area and started salsaing just as the band played their last song. And then it was time to meet up with her cousin.

It was a short visit seeing T. and L.B. I told them I was thinking of moving out here, and they said they were trying to convince their other sisters to come out and visit for the summer. P. exchanged email addresses with them to take them salsa dancing, and then we were back in the car, driving south into LA, the sun setting as the long afternoons that in California never seem to want to end slowly began. Posted by eugene at


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