Goin' back to Cali
I'm taking a seven a.m. flight to San Francisco to attend Lin and Michael's wedding reception. What am I still doing up? That's a question I'm asking myself right now. Posted by eugene at 12:28 AM
July 29, 2004
Goin' back to Cali
I'm taking a seven a.m. flight to San Francisco to attend Lin and Michael's wedding reception. What am I still doing up? That's a question I'm asking myself right now. Posted by eugene at 12:28 AM
July 28, 2004
Rain and the four corners of the earth
I got drenched on the way home. There was a lull, but as soon as I started walking from Nyonya the rain began again. A block or two away and the rain turned into a downpour. My umbrella was useless.
While not officially a going-away dinner, it will be the last time I see Kit before she returns from London in September. She flies out on Friday. Eric flies out on Wednesday to help her girlfriend in Minnesota move. I fly out on Thursday for San Francisco. Cherry flies out to Las Vegas on Sunday. Of the six of us at the table, only two will remain in New York for the duration of the weekend.
This morning, Ed missed his flight. I ran into him on the street coming back from lunch in Chinatown. I tapped him on the shoulder, appearing confused. "Aren't you supposed to be in San Francisco?" I asked. He said he's always late. He was on his way back to the apartment to check his email or to pick up clothes. When he left to return to his sister's to pick up his luggage he said, "I'll see you in San Francisco" for the second time. He was late leaving for the airport.
Ian talks of going to Europe for a few weeks in August for a vacation, with maybe a little work mixed in. He's just had a few long shoots and wants a break. Sophia's leaving for Taiwan in a few weeks. On her way back to the states, she's considering spending a few weeks in Europe. I'm thinking of going to Turkey for a couple of weeks in late August with Ed. He's planning on passing through on his way back to Iraq. And there's a chance I might try to meet up with Sophia in northern Spain.
The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain. In New York, the rain has just begun again. Teru tells me he was looking to be on the shortie prowl after being cramped at home all day. But perhaps not tonight.
"Oh God, it's raining but I'm not complaining, it's filling me up with new life . . . " Posted by eugene at 12:26 AM
July 27, 2004
Charlotte called me at 2 to ask me what I was doing. I was on a bus heading south. I had had a meeting at one at my former place of employment, and then walked up to the ICP to find it closed on Mondays. She asked me if I wanted to play pool at around four. She was sick of working and had decided to take the afternoon off. I thought about the dog I had to walk and the work that I had lined up in the afternoon for a moment before saying yes.
The dog walked and my work postponed, I met Charlotte on the corner of Christopher and Seventh. She had gone home to change. A gym bag hung by her side. She led us to an unassuming door just west of the intersection. A sign said live jazz.
We played for two hours. I need to take lessons. There are a few things that I still can't seem to figure out. We chatted while we played. Charlotte told me that her friends aren't so interested in playing pool. In Asia, she told me, the pool halls are seedy.
We bet dinner on one frame and I lost at the break, scratching the cue ball. Charlotte wanted something light; she was going to the gym later. She asked me what was nearby then brightened. "Isn't the Corner Bistro around here?" she asked. I said yes. She had had a burger in midtown for lunch and told me that it couldn't compare to those at the Corner Bistro. So much for eating light . . . Posted by eugene at 10:40 AM
July 26, 2004
Much ado about doo doo
Ed called me this morning and asked if I wanted to see Shakespeare in the Park. I had 20 minutes to arrive at the Public Theater. His sister had arrived a half hour before. She told him there were 100 people in front of her and some 30 behind. When I arrived, Ed told me that I couldn't take tickets. That if people joined you in line to get tickets, you had to move to the back. I assured those around us that I was lending moral support. And so we waited.
A man came by counting tickets. He pointed to the girl behind us and told the rest of the line that there was a 99.44% chance that they would not get tickets. The line started moving. We shuffled our way to the front. When we arrived at the front, a man handed us tickets from a short stack.
From there Ed and I went to the Asia Society to view half of an exhibit of photography and video work from China. The other half is at the International Center of Photography. The exhibit is contained in one room at the Society. Photographers take center stage, while a room off to the side shows video works. I was surprised to recognize some of the work from a show in Chelsea that I attended with Jean a year or two ago.
I had to race home after viewing the exhibit. I spent the weekend watching two cats and a dog, which greatly defined my actions of the past few days. Lynda had called Thursday looking for someone to watch her cats, and my neighbor had asked me on Wednesday if I would be available to watch her dog. I had to feed the cats and walk the dog and leave the apartment keys with Hiroko so that Lynda could come by to pick up her cats that evening. I'm never watching a dog again; it's too much work. For the most part, the cats seem able to fend for themselves. And they use the toilet, which makes cleanup that much easier. If only they didn't shed.
The play was ok. The acting was hit and miss; the play itself dragged in the second act. As Ed commented, once you know that the entire play is a ruse, there's very little to recommend the second act.
On the way home, kids sold candy bars in the subway. They seemed to be selling them for themselves rather than for a school, but they were up front about it. I missed their announcements due to train noise. At one stop a man got on and welcomed us to his club before snapping his fingers and singing an upbeat version of "Ain't no sunshine when she's gone," before passing around a paper bag. As it filled with money, he beamed to the crowd and said, "Don't you all wish you had a bag like this?" Posted by eugene at 1:37 AM
July 23, 2004
It's raining today. It looks like it will rain without end. Ed woke me this morning asking me if I wanted to go to Shakespeare in the park. At 10.30 a.m. there was a 60 percent chance that it would rain this evening. I got out of bed and took the dog for a walk (I'm dogwatching for Tara, upstairs). Elliot (the dog) didn't want to leave the entryway. I carried him back upstairs just as it started to pour.
I just stepped out to get a sandwich from the deli. The mailwoman was sitting in the doorway of a house about 10 doors down from mine. She was sheltering from the rain, thumbing through a catalogue. Do they have a set break time? Is that my catalogue she's skimming? Posted by eugene at 1:22 PM
July 22, 2004
Dinner at Guillemette's
Last night, Guillemette had a number of journalists over for dinner. I can't remember what she made, other than the main course was fish. She baked vegetables and a special black cous cous as a side dish, but I forget where the cous cous was from. There were four bottles of wine on the table and I sampled three of them. By 11.30, I was tipsy. I made my excuses and said my goodnights and walked slowly home.
During dinner, the conversation hovered around politics and the Democratic National Convention. Almost everyone at the table are heading to Boston to cover the event. Guillemette coordinated with Catherine. Everyone else compared hotels. Eventually, it came to light that Catherine had spent time following Kerry on his campaign. "But it was a long time ago," she said. Early in the primaries. Guillemette upped the ante on her bet with Tomas that Bush would drop Cheney. Tomas named the brand he liked. We all feared for the outcome of the elections. Posted by eugene at 10:47 PM
July 21, 2004
Middle Eastern food
Eran and I had lunch plans today. We had decided to meet on the corner of 14th and 8th. At the appointed time, I watched as he strolled across the street. He was dressed in black with orange bug-eyed shades. He looked a little like an Isreali Bono.
He lived just catty corner to where we were standing. He pointed to the building and told us that Elinor would be joining us. We walked to the doorway of his building and she appeared. Her belly was huge. She's pregnant with twins; her due date is three weeks hence. "Generally, twins come early," she told me, and she may deliver this week.
We went to a small Turkish restaurant on 14th Street, just west of 8th. I had a chicken gyro, finishing off the meal with black Turkish tea. We talked about photography and about raising families and about Isreal and the Middle East. They both dream about visiting Syria and Lebanon. We raved about the food, and they gave recommendations for out of the way places to eat.
Elinor told me her mother is coming in three weeks to help take care of the children. "Though if I give birth beforehand, she's ready to jump on the next flight out," she said. She looks beautiful, and they both tell me the pregnancy has been surprisingly easy. Elinor tells me she's more calm during the pregnancy as well. She's been taking on jobs that she would otherwise have turned down due to the stress. Now she takes them in stride. She hopes that her calm will remain after she gives birth. Otherwise she might always have to be pregnant to achieve her current zen-like state.
When we left, we all walked north. I was heading to Bed, Bath & Beyond, and they were looking to buy snacks. Friends had told them to prepare snacks along with their overnight bags for the hospital. Elinor told them she could always send Eran out, but they told her she wouldn't want to be without him for five minutes. They stopped by a deli owned by a Lebanese man where Eran said they made the best halwa. I was tempted, but didn't step inside.
I had my first halwa in Damascus. A small chunk of it sat to the side of my breakfast tray. I tried it on flatbread, still warm from the bakery. It was delicious. Later, Iman told me that it was good for the skin, among other things. She cut a chunk for each of us off of a brick they had in the kitchen and we ate it off the knife with our fingers. "It's good, no?" she asked. It was great. Tomorrow, I'll have to go back to that deli on 7th and correct today's mistake. Posted by eugene at 7:41 PM
I took a nap this afternoon. I had gone to bed at four in the morning and the afternoon was hot. I woke to four paws walking on my back. Ed had left the door open and Tara's dog had come in to explore. The last time I felt paws on my body was in the desert of Wadi Rum, in Jordan. There, a desert fox had become curious about our sleeping bodies. In the morning we could see its footprints surrounding our makeshift beds, set on a sand dune. I had woken in the middle of the night to find the fox walking over my legs.
Tara apologized and gave me info on Sabrina's birthday party. Drinks were to be had at APT at nine thirty. She said she'd come by around then so we could walk over together. Then she asked if I could watch her dog over the weekend. "You can stay in our apartment," she told me. They have HBO on demand and an air conditioner. Tara also told me she has a very comfortable bed. When she was making a lot of money, she said, she invested in one after months of sleeping on comfy hotel matresses.
I met Sabrina New Year's Eve. She was coming back from a job in Times Square (she's a makeup artist); I was coming back from drinks with Sonia near Times Square. It was the first time Sabrina had been there for the ball drop and she was in a prime location. We made plans to have coffee or drinks but she always ended up being called to L.A. for various jobs.
On Thursday, she's going back to L.A. for a week and then to Costa Rica for a week. She's going with friends who are teaching her to surf. One told me that her first time out, she managed to stand. Then she's back in L.A. for a period of time. She said she'd call me when she got back to tell me all about it. Something tells me I'm going to be jealous. But I've already decided that I'll be going to Costa Rica myself within the next five years to learn to surf. Maybe I've seen one too many surf movies. More likely it's the draw of snowboarding without layers of clothing and a softer surface on which to land. Posted by eugene at 3:29 AM
July 19, 2004
This afternoon, Kee took me to Spice Market for lunch. The pastry chef had stopped by her shop last week and asked when she was going to drop by. She told him her day off was Monday, and he said he would make reservations for her at 12.30.
The restaurant has a look similar to ABC Carpet and Home, circa 1998. A mix of Asian styles, the space looks more suited to a club than a restaurant, per se. Natural materials lined up and framed adorn the walls. Dark carved wood arches separate the different dining areas. A cut out square in the center of the main room leads down to the lounge, while a bar area lines the open kitchen anchoring the rear of the room off to the left side.
The waiter asked us if we knew the "concept" of the resaurant, and proceeded to tell us that the food was all influenced by Southeast Asian street food. The food would arrive as it was prepared, rather than in traditional courses, he warned, and served family style. He then asked us if we would like anything to drink. I found it odd that a concept for the restaurant would have to be explained to us. I later asked him if the green papaya salad was influenced more by the Lao or the Thai version, and he responded with a description of the ingredients, before saying that he thought it was more Thai-influenced. I asked him if they used fermented crab and he shook his head.
We started with the lobster roll and the crunchy squid salad. The waiter warned us again that the roll was wrapped with a jelly that was particularly vinegary. I again felt odd about his warning. The roll came prepared as a Vietnamese summer roll. The lobster was masked by the other flavors, the aforementioned vinegar (which gave the roll a light kick) and a spicy sauce placed on the side. The squid salad was composed of fried calamari piled over greens supported by watercress and papaya. The fried squid was oddly lacking in crispness, but the papaya was incredibly fresh, and the salad nicely seasoned with a slightly spicy vinagrette.
We next had the Vietnamese chicken curry, served with coconut sticky rice. The chicken was tender, and the curry good. Mixed with the coconut sticky rice, the dish improved dramatically (though the consistency of the sticky rice approached that of porridge), but an equal or better could still probably be found fairly easily in Chinatown. The crispy monkfish in coconut with tamarind was a disappointment. The fish, coated with crispy coconut flakes, proved somewhat tasteless; the dish depended too heavily on the dollop of tamarind placed in the center of each piece.
For dessert, Pichet Ong sent out a chocolate tart with condensed milk ice cream and rice pudding with passion fruit sorbet. The tart was incredibly bitter, the taste balanced by the ice cream. A crumbled chocolate crust contained the creamy molten center. The rice pudding and passion fruit sorbet were excellent. The rice pudding was served on soup spoons, with a caramlized glaze coating it. The sorbet was incredibly fresh.
He sent out the Olvatine kulfi, the Thai juice, a flan, and a tray of three mini take out boxes containing durian, blackberry, and lemon ginger sorbets. The kulfi was too much, a thick bar of caramel consistency, flavored with Olvatine, and unlike any kulfi I have had in the East. The Thai juice appropriated a popular Asian dessert, with colored watercress dumplings floating in a milky soup dotted with translucent tapioca balls. The flan was perfunctory. The sorbets were much better. The durian captured perfectly the taste of that pungent fruit, the lemon ginger proved creamy and thick, and the blackberry was refreshingly tart.
The table beside us gasped as our table filled with sweets, and after the waiter told us that that was the last of it, a bag of cookies appeared. Pitchet came out after the meal to chat with Kee, and then took us on a tour of the kitchen. In the basement prep kitchen he introduced us to Stanley Wong, the head chef, before taking us out into the downstairs lounge. There, he chatted with Kee about the future, while two women hoping to trail at the restaurant waited for Mr. Wong.
While Kee went to the restroom, he chatted with one of the women, asking her if she had trailed at Nobu. "You should," he told her, "see what they're like." She nodded and he asked her what she was doing tomorrow night. She said she was to start at Spice Market. "How about tonight?" he asked. Se made an apology and then he asked her about the food at the other restaurants in which she had worked.
When Kee reappeared, we walked upstairs and thanked Pitchet. I was amazed at the vast array of desserts. Midway through he had asked us if we wanted to try the other five that were on the menu. We demurred. Already we had to take the cookies back with us. I tried them later in the evening. They were fantastic. Posted by eugene at 10:36 PM
From Baalbek to bodies
Ed called me from Lebanon, where he's vacationing with Korean Jean. He called me for suggestions on what to do on his last day in the country. He was debating between a day trip from Beirut to Byblos or to Saida.
When he called he was visiting Baalbek, and couldn't contain his glee when he told me they were sitting in the Temple of Jupiter waiting for a Massive Attack concert to begin. I couldn't believe it. They didn't play when I was there, and I was surprised that they'd allow concerts on the site of those Roman ruins. In my mind's eye, I pictured Yanni at the Acropolis.
I was on set for Eric's short. He was shooting in a funeral home in Harlem. Last August, Kit had shot A Rainy Day at the same location, and we were surprised to find a call sheet for that production still taped behind a door.
The first half of the day went surprisingly well, and we left the Harlem location almost on time. The entire crew then drove across the George Washington Bridge to Teaneck, New Jersey, for the second location. It was also a funeral home. By then the rain started falling, and the crew set up a makeshift tarp under which everyone ate. The director asked us to move the tarp after dinner. A viewing was to be held that night in the funeral home, and they needed the space for parking.
The last time I saw a cadaver was on the set of A Rainy Day. A wake was being held in the chapel beside the one in which we were shooting. On a break I wandered the halls and, curious about the other chapels, looked into one. I hadn't been told about scheduled wake and was surprised to find a body lying in the open casket by the altar. In another chapel, where the camera crew was staging, caskets lined the wall. One person claimed that bodies were being stored within. The crew didn't seem to mind. Posted by eugene at 2:09 AM
July 18, 2004
A game of dominos
It's midway through Eric's shoot. The morning was spent driving around Williamsburg in a car rig. I wasn't there but I heard the van was hot. One of the actos was on the verge of passing out, or so I heard. I arrived on set in Queens for the second half of the day at 2.30. The morning shoot ran late and the camera and the director didn't arrive until two hours later.
The day proved long, but the footage looks great. Nerves were fraying however. On breaks between shots, as the camera and lighting departments were resetting, Tim taught me how to play dominoes. He had just taught Amelia, the head of the costume department, and we sat on the back porch and played my first hands. When she was called away, Jo, the woman who played the mother, sat in.
Call it beginner's luck, but I won my first game. After a number of rounds, I was up, with ten points to 100. We had just finished a round and I joked that all I needed was to lead with the double five tile. Generally, the person with the double six tile starts. If no one has drawn that tile, the next double tile plays. After we had drawn, Tim asked who had the double sixes. No one did. I looked at my hand and opened the game. The game was over. I had played the double five making my score an even 100. Posted by eugene at 12:47 AM
July 16, 2004
Patty called me during the screening of I Robot. I accidentally cut off the message and decided to call her back instead of calling my voicemail. Looking through my missed calls I redialed an unknown 914 number before realizing that wasn't a Los Angeles exchange. I looked up her work number and redialed.
When I rechecked my voice messages there was one from a man I didn't know. "This is a courtesy call," the message began. "I accidentally called your number earlier and just saw that you had tried to call me back. I had meant to dial 229 instead. There's no need to return this call." Posted by eugene at 1:08 AM
July 15, 2004
Yesterday afternoon Simone called. B.B. King's was hosting the Musicology afterparty. Doors opened at midnight, and Prince was to put in an appearance. She asked me if I wanted to go. I thought about it for a moment then said yes.
I was shooting stills in New Jersey for Eric Lin's thesis film, Fishkill. It's the film with which he's planning on graduating from NYU. At its most basic, the film is about two brothers who begin the process of reconciliation and mutual understading. One of the leads has a recurring role on Third Watch. I asked Kit if he was a principle. She said no, he plays a doctor.
The shoot went well, though long. Clouds hung over the set all day, and in the late afternoon, the rain came as well. I managed a ride back to Manhattan and found myself at home nearing nine. I should have napped.
At midnight I lined up in front of the club. Simone and David arrived just as I neared the door. We walked in and they had drinks. Then we waited. And waited.
Prince arrived around two. He sat in the V.I.P. section with friends and musicians. The DJ stopped playing and the monitors came to life with video footage from that night's concert. The set was the same, but the costumes were different. David was amazed at how tight the band was. Nearing the end of the first segment, Simone leaned over to me. "He didn't play this for us!" The camera cut to Sheila E as she started to sing "The Glamourous Life." The crowd went wild. In the club, people shouted and scremed, and when the song was finished, lights started flashing in the room. She stood up from her table and acknowledged the applause. Then the video Sheila E and Prince descended into the stage. In the club, she smiled and waved.
Onscreen, Maceo began playing "It's a wonderful world" as the DJ reappeared on stage. The videos faded to black as he began to play and the crowd booed. The DJ stopped and spoke into his microphone, "You all set me up," he said, then walked off to find the club owner. The crowd started chanting for Prince, as he stood surrounded by people in the VIP section. Soon, he made a break for the exit. The DJ came back looking dejected. Slowly, he grabbed another record and put it on the turntable. He looked off to the side of the stage, then leaned into his microphone. "Prince has left the building," he said, then gently tunrned up the volume. The crowd made for the door. It was 3.40 in the morning. Posted by eugene at 12:45 PM
July 14, 2004
Prince @ MSG
The first Prince song I remember hearing is "Little Red Corvette" on AM radio. In junior high, I taped Purple Rain off of a record I checked out of the library. A friend was dating a girl named Nikki, and his friends used to tease him by singing "Darling Nikki" to him. That summer, I wore the tape out.
The first album I bought was Diamonds and Pearls, used, from a record store in New York. I wanted to hear the song "Gett Off" after a friend of mine told me she had done a dance routine to the song in college. By then I knew the hit songs, and knew he wrote "Nothing Compares 2 U" (the number and letter gave it away), but hadn't realized he also had penned Chaka Khan's "I Feel for You."
The first time I saw him in concert, Chaka Khan opened for him; I was surprised to have recognized all of her songs. The show was at Madison Square Garden and he was spectacular. That night I searched on ebay and bid on a lot of 10 of his records. Since then I've collected them all.
The next time I saw him he was playing a club show at the now defunkt Life (it's since become a theater). Doors opened at 9.30 pm. He didn't start performing until quarter to three. By the time I walked out of the club, it was light outside. I climbed into bed just before dawn to wake up two hours later to go to work.
Just before this past birthday, Patty invited me to see him at the House of Blues. Then we learned the show was at two in the morning. She had to work, and I had to catch a train for San Jose. We passed. But in the excitement, I decided I had to see him again. Back in New York I searched for tickets to his sold out show and, surprisingly, found some. He had extended his stay at the Garden from three nights to six. Posters around town crowned it his one week reign (I suppose even God had to rest on the seventh day).
As we made our way into the Garden and up the stairs, ushers handed us copies of his new CD. At 8.20 the lights went off. The band started into the title track and he emerged from the center of the stage. He played for almost three hours. At one point, he paused and smiled at the crowd. "You're never gonna get me out of here," he said, then went back to playing his guitar.
The concert was in the round, the stage a cross in the middle of the Garden. He danced, he strutted, he played his guitar. From a medly of hits, he charged into an extended jam session after changing his clothes. Just past the midway point, his band left the stage, leaving him alone on a stool with an acoustic guitar. He started with "Little Red Corvette" before playing the blues. He played "I will never take the place of your man," surprising me, then played two songs I didn't know, but which the crowd sang word for word. Prince played his guitar and listened. Then said, "Now I'll sing a song for you."
When the band returned they launched into "Seven" before breaking into a ballad from the new album. Then it was into another medly. At one break between segments, Maceo Parker donned a pair of sunglasses and sang "Georgia on my mind."
In the middle of the concert I turned to Simone and said in the future it was no longer a question whether I would want to see him when he came to town. "Do you want to get tickets?" YES!
Before Prince returned for his encore, the crowd was deafening. I've never heard screams so piercing. The people next to Simone left. She shook her head. "They're going to miss 'Purple Rain,'" she said. I don't even remember what he sang when he came back to the stage, but he closed with "Purple Rain." As he came to the end, the crowd sang the vowels. "Oooooo oooooo oooooo. Ooooooo ooooooo oooooo," as Prince cheered us on.
Walking to the subway I passed a car blasting "Musicology" from its speakers. The funk thickened the damp air. "Heard about the party just east of Harlem . . ." In the subway, people clung to their simply packaged copies of the album. As we walked out of the stadium, Simone kept singing the last bit of "Purple Rain." Around us we could hear people continuing to "oooo ooooo ooooo." As if the concert were continuing to echo into the night. Posted by eugene at 12:03 AM
July 13, 2004
Nickel and Dimed
I finished reading Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America a couple of weeks ago and was disappointed. It felt too much like a book written from the point of wealth guilt, and while it purports to expose the injustice of the low threshold of the minimum wage, the book does its subjects a disservice.
Too often, Barbara Ehrenreich congratulates herself on being able to make ends meet on minimum wage for a month, while there are people around her trying to make ends meet for the entirety of their lives on the same sum. Too often she pines for the luxuries she denies herself, while those around her pine for a middle class lifestyle they'll never attain. When she tries to convince those around her to unionize against Wal-mart, it plays as an experiment. In a month, Ehrenreich is off to another city, another challenge, leaving those she has tried to organize to return to a life she has potentially made a little more difficult to live. The impulse is, perhaps, a good one, but it's misplaced.
While I suppose it's commendable that she's raising the issue, the book as its presented could only work if it were written by a minimum wage worker summing up his or her life. The other (better) option would have been to interview the people she works with and write a book about them specifically, presenting the stories of the people who are living at the poverty line, rather than focusing on herself as a tourist among them.
By masquerading as one of them, she tells a skewed story. Neither does she represent the individuals working low income jobs, nor does she fully embody the life of a low income individual. For as much as she may suffer for the month(s) that she's denying herself, at the end of the day she returns to her upper-middle class life, perhaps enriched by her experience, but still leaving it (and the people who still live it) behind. Posted by eugene at 4:50 PM
I've been thinking about travel recently. Ed's been asking me if I want to go to Asia with him for three weeks in August. He's thinking of Indonesia. Originally, we thought of going to Tibet by way of western China, but he has only three weeks. Three weeks is not enough time to do the trip properly, especially if we were to return overland through Sichuan. To begin with, I would want to take the train across the country as well, from Shanghai to Chengdu, where we would pick up the overland trail to Lhasa. It would take at least a month and a half.
Lin emailed us from Peru. She's on her honeymoon. She had decided in the end to follow the Inca trail to Macchu Picchu. Originally she had decided on a different trek but changed her mind at the last minute. She wrote that she realized she couldn't go to Peru and not visit Macchu Picchu. She's glad she did, and recommended that as a short trip destination. The weather might not be condusive to the four day hike, however.
Ed and I also talked about driving from San Francisco to Seattle. I've never been to Seattle, and we're planning on being in the Bay area for Lin's west coast wedding reception. After the recent flurry of emails, there are a number of people I now want to visit and meet there, and it looks like the trip will become a working vacation if it materializes.
I had ice cream and snacks with Yukwah last Thursday. She tells me she's thinking of going to Morocco and also to Vietnam. The latter trip she hopes to combine with cooking classes. As I told her about my wanderlust, she said that travelling is a privledge and not a right. I told her that once I start taking tango classes, I'll have to make a pilgrimmage to Argentina. To visit the cafe where Wong Kar-Wai shot Happy Together. Posted by eugene at 2:17 AM
July 12, 2004
It's been raining most of the day; it's raining still. It's been a productive day. Another series of events occurred today as a result of Oliver Wang's linking to me.
Hua im'd me to tell me that a friend of his (Jeff Chang) was interested in talking to me about designing his site. He had found me through Oliver's blog. Jeff's book Can't Stop Won't Stop is coming out in the fall. When I asked Hua who the publisher is, he told me it was my old company, St. Martin's Press. I called David and asked who was working on it. He didn't know and told me it hadn't been finished yet. Later Oliver called me and told me that it being designed by friend of his named Brent Rollins, who had worked on Ego Trip, and also told me that Oliver is the hub around which these connections have been built. He also told me that Henry, my former boss, was guiding the book jacket. Posted by eugene at 4:49 PM
July 11, 2004
The Bronx zoo
Lynda called me at noon, waking me up. "Sorry for the late notice," she said. "Do you want to go to the Bronx zoo?" I asked her if I could call back in ten minutes, after I assessed whether it would be possible to get out of bed. "Sure, leave a message on my cell phone." I blinked and rolled onto the floor, then pulled myself up and walked to the bathroom, nauseous.
Last night I met Xiaoming at the Knitting Factory. We had gone to see The New Year, not realizing that two bands were opening. The room was freezing. We walked upstairs and found seats in a corner of the balcony. Mazarin played the first set; every song sounded the same. I dozed. Vietnam was louder, with some interesting lead guitar work, but a terrible lead singer who emobied the worst aspects of Jim Morrison's intoning and Bono's posturing. By the time The New Year crowded on stage (there were four guitarists, a bassist, and a drummer) it was nearing one o'clock. The sound was layered, but inadequately mixed; the vocals were mostly lost, and boomed. Still, they played well and it was fun hearing them.
On the way home I stopped at Hiroko's. Her birthday had just passed and she had closed her restaurant to celebrate with friends. Almost everyone had gone by the time I arrived; she was drunk. A few of her friends had remained, finishing off beers or napping on one of the couches. One of her friends remembered a cake she had brought, and set about decorating it with candles. Little mice made out of frosting dotted the edges. She said she had bought it in Korea town. It was delicious, light and refreshing.
When I climbed upstairs to my apartment it was nearing four. Unable to sleep I stayed up reading. Dawn had begun filtering through the windows by the time I turned in.
The zoo was well attended without being crowded. Time Warner was sponsoring the weekend for its employees and their guests, and we were the beneficiaries thanks to Lynda. We started in the African plains, making our way west to the Congo Gorilla forest (still one of my favorite attractions) before heading north to the zoo center. The sea lions were all in the water, swimming about and barking out to each other. Walking east we entered the Tiger Mountain exhibit, and I was surprised to find the tigers visibly walking around. When I had gone last year they could barely be seen hiding in the trees against the far wall.
On our way out we took the Bengali express, a two mile monorail passing through a number of Asian habitats. Behind the train we could see the pens in which the animals are kept as the tour guide pointed out animals ahead. A child in the car before us waved to the animals, saying bye bye as we passed from one habitat to the other.
We left as the zoo was closing. A man sold flavored ice by the exit and we each gave him a dollar for a cup of it. It was the perfect treat after an afternoon walking around the zoo. I'm still amazed at how improved it is from my first trip in high school, some fifteen years ago.
My new favorite animal is the tapir. Posted by eugene at 8:36 PM
Birthday party coincidences
I've just returned from the tail-end of Hiroko's birthday party. I introduced myselef to one of her friends, who looked at me askance and said that he once went to school in Wisconsin with a guy whose brother had the same name as me. Eric? I asked. Yes, he said. We then realized that we had met four years ago. I still have his copy of Twin Peaks. I had gone travelling and by the time I returned, he had changed his number. Hiroko was shocked we knew each other. Posted by eugene at 3:59 AM
Once more around the island, Guv'nor
This afternoon I rode around Manhattan. From my apartment I rode west. Past the West Side Highway, I turned south, following the Hudson River. I rode past a trapeez school and a skate park before I ran into Battery Park. Biking along the tip of Manhattan, I passed the National Musem of the American Indian and the ferry slips pointing towards Staten and Governor's Islands. I listened to Erlend Oye's DJ Kicks compilation.
I rode past the South Street Seaport and Fulton Fish Market, the smell of the sea wafting over the island. I rode under the FDR and the Brooklyn Bridge. Heading north along the East River Esplanade I passed fishermen casting their long poles into the water. Brooklyn loomed on the opposite bank.
Near the UN, I was forced back onto the streets before I could return to the river at 54th street. A pedestrian bridge crossed the highway and put me back on the path. A few blocks up I was forced to walk the bike up a flight of stairs (a metal gutter ran along the side of the steps with which to wheel the bike up). I emerged onto a raised park. A lighthouse marked the edge of Brooklyn and the start of Queens. I continued northward. I listened to Interpol's new album Antics.
At 96th street I crossed over to the west side, taking my time to navigate Central Park. I biked up to 110th Street, passing Lasker Pool. I biked north on Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard through Harlem before realizing I had to take a left to make it back to the Hudson River. The buildings lining the wide swath of asphalt shone proudly in the late afternoon sun.
I biked south through Riverside Park, passing sailboats moored in the river. The sun was setting; its reflection stretched in the water. I listened to Wilco's A Ghost is Born, passing parks and cafes and, further south, the Intrepid and the helipads from which the helicopter tours of New York are run. Passing Chelsea Piers, I knew I was almost home. An LCD screen taunted me with a Coke advertisement.
At Clarkson I turned off the bike path, heading for Seventh Avenue. I turned south and then east on Spring. Con Edison had blocked off the block past Thompson and so I turned with the rest of the traffic, dismounting as I rode up onto the sidewalk. As I parked the bike, Xiaoming called. Posted by eugene at 3:35 AM
July 10, 2004
A series of fortunate events
Taking a page from Jean, an interesting chain of events (not quite a coincidence). Yesterday I forwarded my Middle East site to my cousin Hua, who sent it to Oliver. Oliver linked it from his blog and today I received the following email:
I don't know if you remember me, but anyways, I think I knew you when I was much younger back in Connecticut. I remember one time you had me on your shoulders and then we ran into a chandelier, and that's all I remember. Anyways, I kind of don't even remember what you look like, and I think my mom sent me a link to your webpage one time. But I just realized who you were. And I was reading Oliver's blog and he had a link to your site. Oliver is my professor right now during the summer at UC Berkeley. And then I just realized that you're Hua's cousin. I've been living in Boston (just graduated from Tufts University) and have been DJ-ing a little and read about hip hop, so I know who Hua is. That's crazy. Anyways, I'm sure you're busy and you may not remember who I am, but I wanted to say hello. I like your photographs! Bye! -TomI love the internet. And I'm really glad he sent me the message.
Links: Jean, Oliver, Hua. Posted by eugene at 1:12 AM
I met Brian for dinner. We haven't seen each other in a while and it was good to catch up. He suggested the restaurant. Abigail, a mutual friend of ours, had once recommended it to him offhandedly as they passed. The food was terrific.
We started with a chimichanga, of chicken stewed in creamed tomatos. The meat was incredibly tender, the shell not too fried. I moved on to a halibut soaked in coconut milk, then broiled, topped with a mixed nut crust and garnished with mango. Brian had the vegetarian burrito. The fish melted in the mouth, the mixture of flavors a nuanced blend. The burrito came with a complex sauce, at once spicy and sweet. For dessert we shared the isla de chocolate, a warm chocolate cake floating in a pool of vanilla and coconut milk dotted with grapes. The cake tasted faintly of nutmeg or another spice, again balancing flavors to great effect.
The waiter did a great job describing each dish; the waitress struggled to remember all the ingredients. The table beside us emptied then filled with five girls who had a very hard time deciding what they wanted to eat, even before the waiter appeared.
The room is small; a kitchen takes up half the restaurant. Brian and I sipped our margaritas and talked about movies and the Middle East. I asked him about teaching, and he asked me about travelling. Then we talked about food. He said that while there are meals that he can eat and enjoy and pick apart to make at home, there are others where he wouldn't even know where to begin to make such food. And then he's happy to make trips especially to eat it. Mexicana Mama falls into that category. Posted by eugene at 12:53 AM
July 9, 2004
Middle East photographs
I've been busy scanning negatives. Hence the lack of interesting events as of late. However, I have finally put together a site of black and white photographs taken while I was in the Middle East. So, if you would like to see some of what I wrote about a month or two ago, you can find it here. Please let me know of any comments or questions you might have. A collection of color photographs will follow. (Breaking the tradition of links within the body text . . . ) Posted by eugene at 2:23 AM
July 6, 2004
Battery Park vacation
For dinner I had fried calamari with french fries. I had just biked fifteen miles and met Guillemette on the tip of the island. She had suggested we meet at the Winter Garden for a drink by the harbor. She was in the middle of a run and had four more miles after our drink. I started with and ice tea, and she a diet Coke. Then she ordered the fries. Looking at the menu, I saw the calamari. G said she had ordered them before, but couldn't remember if they were really super good or really super bad. All that was left were the crumbs.
We sat by a fountain, a flat sheet of water that overflowed into another pool. The sun disappeared behind clouds as we looked out over the small harbor. Looking at the people around us, G said she felt like we were on vacation. "Why do I get the feeling we're the only two here who didn't spend the afternoon at Madame Tussaud's?" she asked.
After the table had been cleared, the waitress dropped off dessert menus. We sent them back. "I think we're done here," G said, considering our meal a new training regimen. I told her that our meal just undid all the exercise I had done. She said she had revised her opinion of exercise. As long as you look firmed and toned, she suggested, the rest doesn't matter. Posted by eugene at 10:26 AM
July 4, 2004
At 12.30am someone lit fireworks in the basketball court next to my apartment. For two minutes they exploded like yellow anemones in front of my window; the noise echoed off the buildings around me. Smoke quickly filled the small area. Fifteen minutes I heard a siren. It approached and then it passed. Posted by eugene at 2:12 AM
July 3, 2004
A day in Queens
The Isamu Noguchi museum re-opened last month. It's been closed since October 2001 for renovations. Jean mentioned the museum at lunch yesterday and, with no previous plans for today, I decided to go. I called Simone and David to see if they would be interested and we decided to meet at 42nd street on the N/R platform.
We took the wrong train into Queens and had to backtrack. To board the right train we would have had to come back to Manhattan, and so we decided to walk from a nearby station. We walked west along Broadway, past bakeries and cafes with al fresco seating. Soon the majority of the restaurants were Greek. Later in the afternoon we watched as a car drove by with a huge Greek flag jutting out of its roof; Greek flags were pasted to the windows and trailed off the trunk. The Euro Cup finals are tomorrow.
At an intersection, David suddenly declared he knew exactly where we were. He pointed to a White Castle and told me they had stopped there on the last New York City Bike Tour. Simone started salivating. I said I had never had a White Castle burger and so we decided to stop. The burger was uninspiring.
The museum garden is small. Sculptures dot the rock lawn; a curved path winds from one end to the museum store. On the ground floor, other sculptures dot sterile rooms. There are no plaques. The second floor is another thing altogether.
From now until October 3, the museum is presenting a number of Noguchi's works in an exhibition designed by Robert Wilson. The first room contains set pieces that he designed for Martha Graham. The room is kept intentionally dark. A soundtrack completes the mood. Carefully arranged and toned lights not only show off the artwork to its best effect, but also cast artful shadows on the wall. The marriage of sculpture to exhibition space is perfect.
Another room shows off a number of his lamps and tables in a collage of home settings. The sounds of a social gathering permeate the room. Next is a winding path through a darkened stone garden, spot lighting illuminating individual sculptures or living arrangements. The exhibition is exquisite.
I bid adieu to Simone and David at Queensboro Plaza, transferring to the 7. I was on my way to P.S.1 for the summer warm-up. Both Peanut Butter Wolf and Madlib were on the bill, and I had told Lynda I would meet her there.
The line was around the block, but it was moving. By the time we managed to enter, we had already missed Peanut Butter Wolf, and Madlib's set was midway through. I made my way into the museum to view the exhibitions. I was surprised to find a facsimile of the notebook in which Chris Marker sketched out Sans Soleil.
An hour or so later, the bass driving itself into my head, I decided to go. I had lost Lynda and her friends in the museum, and the DJ was one with whom I was unfamiliar. I sat on the edge of the courtyard, watching people come and go. A mist machine created a cloud around the bamboo canopy that serves as this year's courtyard installation. Under another part of the canopy, people waded in a small pool. The crowd thinned. I called Lynda to leave a message, and then the evening attendance dropped by one.
Links: The Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum, P.S.1, Madlib, Peanut Butter Wolf. Posted by eugene at 9:31 PM
A four hour lunch
Yesterday Lin and Jean offered to treat me to lunch for my birthday (now almost a month away). I'm slowly settling into my late-early-thirties. Originally, we were to meet at Honmura-An, a soba restaurant on Mercer. I arrived to find it closed for a summer holiday. It will reopen July 7th. I called Lin and we quickly decided on Balthazar. Outside Honmura-An, I found Jean's friend Carina and, after introducing myself, told her of the change in plans.
Our waiter was animated, pantomiming the boullaibaise preparation as he described it. At first we couldn't decide if we liked him or not. In the end we did not. Lin had a lamb sandwich, Jean the ceviche and the ravoli appetizer, Carina the ceviche, and I the cod entree. We ate and talked. Lin was about to leave on her honeymoon (to Peru). Jean talked about coincidences. Eventually the conversation shifted to dating.
Lin came laden with gifts and she presented me with a Joop! long sleeved shirt. She told me she had bought it in Berlin, and then told me she had originally bought it for her husband Michael. She had presented him with two, one blue and one green, and he had rejected the green one. She said she was telling me in the event I wore the shirt when meeting Michael and he commented on it. She then showed us some clothes she bought for Michael at Banana Republic. One of the shirts was one I had been eyeing. In the future Michael and I will be dressed the same.
Between lunch and dessert we had a shift in attendees. Carina had an informational interview to attend. She said her goodbyes, and we wished her luck in finding a job in New York. She's from San Francisco, but is looking to give New York a try; she grew up New Jersey and has seen her friends here multiply.
At three Guillemette arrived and we ordered dessert. Jean had a berry tart, Guillemette a chocolate something, and I the caramelized banana tart with banana ice cream. As the afternoon wore on, we got up to leave one by one. Lin left to pack. Jean went to drop off film before heading to South Street Seaport to see the Frames. I stayed behind with Guillemette as she interviewed a subject from our table.
And then it was time to go. The restaurant had filled and emptied and was beginning again to fill. Our waiter had left to be replaced by another. The host smiled and said goodbye as we left, and then Guillemette and I stopped on the sidwalk to talk about the weekend to come before we said goodbye to each other. Then I walked south to meet again with Jean. Posted by eugene at 10:02 AM
July 2, 2004
I ate dinner last night at Rocking Horse Cafe Mexicano with Lauren. What rocking horses have to do with Mexican food is beyond me. The food was solid, but lacking balance. The gazpacho was good, but the mahi mahi with citrus served with rice and beans on a banana leaf suffered from being too spicy. The spiciness overwhelmed the other flavors. The key lime tart was similarly heavy-handed and clumsy, though the graham cracker crust was a nice touch. The warm chocolate cake with cinnamon ice cream was much more successful. And the guacamole was good.
Mimi asked me what I did last night and I told her. She said that she walked by the restaurant around 8.30pm. We were seated outside, but checking the time realized that we probably weren't seated until just a few minutes after. Had my friend and I been seated moments earlier, we would have run into Mimi. It would have been the second time this week I would have run into a friend of mine on the street. I never run into people I know on the street.
Mimi suggested when next we meet we try Suenos. Posted by eugene at 11:57 AM
July 1, 2004
I ran into Pia last night after a screening of Control Room. (The movie is a very good documentary on the wr in Iraq from an Arab media perspective, focusing on Al-Jazeera's coverage. The characters are complex and conflicted, and are given the time to develop their thoughts onscreen. Highly recommended.) She was with a Swiss friend of hers who had just arrived in New York on vacation. None of us had eaten, and Pia suggested an Italian restaurant on 7th, conveniently situated near her apartment.
At the restaurant, the waiter greeted her by name. She said that he had an amazing memory not only for faces but also for names. Even friends she had brought there only once had been greeted by name when they came back alone or with other friends. She said that everything on the menu was good, and the wines were spectacular. I had an asparagus risotto; Pia ordered the wine. She was right on both accounts.
Her friend intimated that Pia was working on a story about dating, and once we had finished discussing the film, the election, and the issue of immigration and integration, comparing the U.S. to Europe, we fell on the topic of her story.
She told us that had interviewed a Swiss friend of hers who had dated a number of American girls. Among other things he said they were better in bed, but that when all was said and done he'd rather marry a Swiss girl. He said that dating in the States was too codified. There seemed to be an unspoken series of steps and rules that everyone followed, from dating to living together to marriage. Pia said that in Europe, moving in together was a much more casual affair, whereby in America it seemed that it was the last step before the committment of marriage.
Pia's friend mentioned that the friend she was staying with had just let his girlfriend move in. She had noticed that a woman had begun living in the apartment; it was more presentable than on her last visit. But her friend was having difficulty adjusting; they had been up late the night before discussing his situation.
Recently, my brother moved in with his girlfriend. My mother was the one to tell me and she asked me what I thought. I told her I had no thoughts. I may have wondered in passing whether they were taking a step towards marriage, but on the other hand it seemed an economical choice. I didn't really start thinking of the M-word until I heard that they were planning on visiting her parents in Iowa. And then that they're planning on coming out east for a weekend as well. Posted by eugene at 5:15 PM
Early music memories
A few nights ago David R. asked me when I became aware of music as more than something that played in the background. I told him it was when I first heard "Private Eyes" by Hall and Oats. The album became the first I bought. But thinking back, I remember listening to an oldies station on an orange portable radio. The song that awakened me to the world of music was by the Young Rascals. I listened every day waiting to hear "Good Lovin'," which they would play without fail. I still pause when flipping through stations if I hear the song. Waiting for the call and answer of the verse, the harmonies of the chorus. And during the organ solo, I find my hands playing along on the nearest surface in syncopated rhythm. Posted by eugene at 12:50 AM