grey marble

October 30, 2004

Charlotte, sometimes

This morning Charlotte left for Hong Kong. She'll be back, but it's uncertain for how long. She left behind a 22" TV, a cell phone (courtesy of Brenda), and a trash bin. She also asked me to watch one of her plants for her. The plant is leaning to the side, but she claims she likes it that way. I love the trash bin. It's under my desk. I love the tv; I can't stop watching movies (reviews to come later). I love the cell phone; it's in color and has a hand's free device. Thursday was like the best Christmas ever. And it's only October. Posted by eugene at

October 28, 2004

Eugene 2, cupcakes 0

I haven't had cupcakes in two days. On Saturday I had three at Jean's wedding. They had extras and she gave me a box to take home. I had another three on Sunday. I tried to make Tulip eat more of them. By Monday they were stale. "Like hockey pucks," Jean said. She told me she was cutting off the tops and eating the icing but throwing away the bulk of the cake.

That afternoon I went to Buttercream cafe for their cupcakes. I was in the area for a meeting. I tried the lemon and then the red velvet, but found the lemon so overpowering I couldn't taste the latter. I came home on a sugar high. Posted by eugene at

October 27, 2004

Honey bunches of oats

Charlotte's moving on Saturday to Hong Kong. As part of the process she's divesting herself of the things she's not taking with her. Earlier in the week she dropped off some food she's not going to finish. One was a box of Honey Bunches of Oats.

I haven't had cereal in a while. For breakfast I've been eating granola with yogurt, but I've been getting tired of it. We had milk in the fridge thanks to FreshDirect, who had delivered the wrong groceries to Tulip. She doesn't drink milk and told me to it.

I just ate cereal for dinner; I finished the box. Posted by eugene at

October 26, 2004

Weekend roundup

Friday night I met up with Patty, Amy, and David. Patty had heard of the Teabag open mic night at the Silk Road Cafe and wanted to check it out. Johnny Hi-Fi was going to play. We met at Sweet and Tart, which was surprisingly disppointing. When I had suggested places to eat, I had called their food comfort food. After dinner, Patty said, "I don't feel that comforted." We all laughed.

At the cafe, the small basement room was packed. A girl was singing a forlorn song on the stage. The only available seats were in the front row. We resisted until a bouncer told Amy to sit there. We followed her into the spotlight.

The MC looked at me and asked who I was. He joked that he never forgot people he looked like. I didn't realize until after we left who he was. I had heard someone call him Telly and then realized that I had met him either through Cherry and Kit or through Ed. Patty leaned over towards me during the show and told me I should have replied, "I dated your mother."

The musicians were good; the comedians were bad. One particularly bad comic, upon leaving the stage said that it was his first time. "It was funnier in my head," he mumbled. It was definitely not funny on stage. After four acts, and after seeing Johnny Hi-Fi, we left to have tea in the area.

The next morning my parents arrived bearing my suit. They had come into town to go to a Chinese book sale in Flushing. I showered and rode with them. They browsed the books and I flipped through the DVDs. In the end, my mom bought four tapes. We drove to the main area and had dim sum and then I had to go back home to dress and prepare for Jean and Steve's wedding.

That afternoon I took the subway to High Street and walked to the Empire-Fulton Ferry Park. There were two wedding parties taking pictures. I ran into Lin and Janince and we followed Becca towards a small hill. I looked for a tent, but Steve told me later they decided not to bother; the ceremony was only going to be 20 minutes. Lumi appeared wearing red. Jean and Steve had asked her to officiate.

Jean's dress was beautiful. She had purchased it from a designer in Vietnam. She said she hadn't even thought of looking for a wedding dress and then there it was.

After family pictures we moved to the boardwalk where Lumi performed the ceremony. Jean cried; Lumi tried not to. Steve stood resolute. At one point those assembled waited for Jean's reply. She snapped back and laughed and said, "I will." Later she said she was trying to think of all their time together in an effort not to cry. A guest looked at her and said, "You thought of your past history so as not to cry?"

In 20 minutes it was over. Everyone congratulated the couple and then quickly made their way to the warmth of the River Cafe. The views were fantastic. We drank and chatted (the wine was very good) and then it was time for dinner. Party favors adorned each place-setting: double happiness shot glasses Jean had also purchased in Vietnam. Dinner was fantastic; I kept the menu (if only because Fumiko wrote her email address on it).

We started with roasted butternut squash soup with apple brandy sabayon and toasted pumpkin seeds. The middle course was a marinated black cod, miso glazed, with vegetable and basmati stir fry. Fumiko remarked that it tasted almost Japanese in its preparation. The entree was a crisp duck breast with whipped sweet potatoes with vanilla bean, truffled honey sauce, and French green beans. Meredith didn't eat hers and so Sam and I shared her portion. For dessert we were served apple tart tatin with green apple sorbet. And afterwards there were cupcakes from the cupcake queen of Brooklyn. Unfortunately the cupcakes were somewhat dry.

At eleven, the party was over. There was no scheduled dancing, although a few people danced anyway. By midnight everyone had left and Jean and Steve left to go home. I walked to the subway and waited to return to Manhattan.

Photos: Dave, Amy, and Patty, Johnny Hi-Fi, Brooklyn wedding, River's Edge reception. Posted by eugene at

October 25, 2004


Just wanted to call out a few projects that I've been working on that are just about launched. One is the minimal design for Sticker Shock, an audioblog curated by Sasha Frere-Jones, Dave Tompkins, Hua Hsu, and Jeff Chang. Hua's my cousin, who introduced me to the crew. It's gonna be big.

I've also been working on Jeff's site, which should (with luck) be launching soon.

I've also started a digifotoblog called THREE.2 where I'm posting digital snapshots like mad. Thanks to Ed for lending me the elph. I'm just worried it's going to make me a lazy photographer, making my film photos suffer. In the meantime, carte blanche pedicure is still going strong.

An update on the wedding weekend should be coming soon.

For those in my neck of the woods, Kee from Kee's Chocolates has just launched a delicious new flavor based on a Japanese fruit. Ask for it by description because I can't remember the name. Posted by eugene at

October 23, 2004

Rushing around on Thursday

A few nights ago I ran into my next door neighbor, Andrew. He told me he had started working for a gallery in Chelsea and that they were having an opening on Thursday. He gave me a few flyers and invited me to go. The art was from China, and I recognized at least one of the names as a photographer I had seen at an ICP show. I thanked him and pocketed the card.

Yesterday I met up with Patty, David, and Shiao-lan. Shiao-lan came down from Connecticut with her daughter. I hadn't seen her daughter in six months and was amazed at how much she had developed in that time. She was walking, though not quite talking.

We had Mexican near Dave's house. The service was slow and so we were allowed a lot of time to catch up. When we returned to Dave's house, Shiao-lan's daughter pooped. David went to work and we went to the Asia Society for the exhibit on Indian jewelry and Mughal paintings. In the galleries, Shiao-lan's daughter pooped again.

Back at David's, Patty took a nap. Shiao-Lan and I chatted until her daughter pooped yet again. Shiao-Lan swears that her daughter never poops this much. She blamed it on the beans, though I don't remember her having any. I ran down for diapers. Patty woke up and we had giant cupcakes at a bakery cafe on Third before we had to go.

Patty and I rode the subway down together while she told me about a graffiti artist named David Choe, whose work she admires. Patty got off at 59th and I proceeded to 42nd to change to the shuttle to Time Square where I caught the E to 23rd. I ran to the gallery.

Four galleries were having openings; people spilled out onto the sidewalk. I wandered the street looking for the Plum Blossom gallery, finding it at the end of the block. I found Andrew and said hi before touring the show. He gave me a button designed by the group UNMASK, which reminded me of the logo on Chang Cheng-Yue's T-shirts.

Lillian appeared and after she looked around we decided to hit some of the other shows on our way back east. I was meeting Charlotte; she was working out. We had a glass of wine at one of the other galleries where she ran into a friend from Project by Project, a nonprofit for which she does volunteer graphic design.

I was running late and the galleries were closing. The groups of people who had been milling about on the street had left. We walked east to Union Square and I told Lillian that I was dropping by the Silkroad Cafe on Friday to see Johnny Hi-Fi. She said she'd call me later and then walked south to Lafayette.

I met Charlotte at Republic. She said the wait was 20 minutes. She had to meet friends at nine to watch the Apprentice. She said if the wait was too long we could always go to MacDonald's. I asked if there were any other places in the area. She suggested Steak Frites. Neither of us had been before.

The dinner took longer than expected and she was late to her show.

Links: Plum Blossom Gallery, David Choe, Project by Project, Johnny Hi-Fi
Photos: Plum Blossom gallery exhibit Posted by eugene at

October 22, 2004


This morning the phone rang. "Thirty-two BJ," a man's voice said. I'm sorry, I think you have the wrong number, I told him. "Somebody left this number." There's nobody here by that name. "No, I'm Thirty-two BJ," he explained. I don't know what that means, I said. "Sorry," he said, and hung up. Posted by eugene at

October 19, 2004

Turkish thoughts and reactions

I've received a number of emails recently regarding my site 25 Days in Turkey. I've excerpted two below:

well,your photos are really fascinating.I am also a turkish there is a couple of things I want to say.I just saw that you showed the turkish women in a wrong way! all of your photos;you showed turkish women with 'turban's but there are many people who don't wear it!


why did you especially choose the pictures which are mostly mosque pictures and there are only women have scrafs in and also men who have beard? i do not think that these are the real aspects of Turkey. i recommend you to put other kind of pictures for example some good places that lots of people visit like istiklal street in istanbul or the truistic places and hotels in cities which are near the sea. i think this site is biased about Turkey. when i first look at the pictures i could not believe my eyes. i went that places so much but i have seen very few people you show in the pictures.

First of all, I'm glad these people took the time to write to me and express their concern. Their emails forced me seriously consider what happens when something is posted on the web, and how those works will be perceived. Sites on the web truly begin to have lives of their own, and it's easy for people to re-interpret or mis-interpret meaning once the work passes beyond the network of people you know and send it to.

Secondly, the site that I posted has to be biased, since the site was created and photographed by one person. I am seeing Turkey through primarily western eyes. Those things that draw my eye as a photographer and designer are probably those things that are different (or "exotic") from my personal experience. However, I am drawn to mosques and women wearing headscarves also because I find them incredibly beautiful, and I present the images as photographs of what I found beautiful and fascinating about Turkey; not to make political comments or judgements about Turkey on the whole.

Finally, I don't see how an individual can ever capably attempt to present the whole of something. Since this was a personal trip, I shot photographs of the tourist sites we happened to come across on our itinerary. I never intended the site to represent all of Turkey; it was a brief trip of 25 days and the site shows Turkey through my eyes in that alloted time. And while with the limited time I had in Istanbul I might not have managed to photograph everything about the city, I was able to visit and represent Kackar and parts of the East that are probably relatively little known compared to the more visited sites in Western Turkey. There are always tradeoffs on any trip, and we chose to see the east.

Initially, when assembling the site I was also editing to show Turkey to Western eyes (the primary audience being friends and acquaintances who wonder how my trip went). That the site reaches beyond is wonderful, but I had (perhaps mistakenly) not considered the larger reaction that the final selections would garner outside that circle.

If I have offended anyone by inclusion or lack of inclusion of images (or an unfair balance of images) relating to Turkey then I apologize. I was there for a short period of time, and attempted to document my visit as best as I could. While I shot images of Istiklal street (and very much enjoyed visiting that district), in the end the composition of those photographs might not have been as interesting as the other photographs I did take. Some choices were based just on the photographs themselves as much as the subject matter, though they were all photographs of Turkey as I saw it.

And I found Turkey to be very welcoming and incredibly beautiful. I hope to be fortunate enough to return again in the future. Posted by eugene at

October 18, 2004

Chang Cheng-Yue @ B.B. King's

I just got home an hour ago. Jean was nice enough to let me crash on her couch. Last night I met up with her and Patty at B.B.King's to catch Chang Cheng-Yue with MC Hot Dog on their first U.S. tour. They had arrived from Washington at 5.30pm and went right into rehearsal; they were stuck in the Holland Tunnel for three hours. You wouldn't be able to tell from their show. They rocked!

The crowd was almost all Asian, and it was funny walking around the club and hearing only Mandarin spoken. Dennis met me at the door and as we wandered around the club, Lillian bounded out of nowhere to grab me and say hello. When I came across Jean and Steve, Steve said it was probably easy to find them; he being one of the few caucasians in the club. A DJ was playing as we waited, and suddenly Patty appeared before me. We hugged and began to catch up as the band took the stage. There was a roar and the music started.

The first set was a lot more energetic and funky than their albums suggest. The guitars chugged, the drums kicked in, and they were rocking just this side of Rage Against the Machine at times. When MC Hot Dog took the stage, there were shouts from all sides as he rocked the mike hard. Patty turned to me and said she thought that Chinese was perfect for rapping since it was all monosyllabic. She then told me about a friend of hers at a San Jose newspaper who, upon hearing Hot Dog, was thrilled to finally hear a good Chinese rapper. (After the show, Patty explained that MC Hot Dog's name is a lot more crass in chinese as MC is slang in Taiwan for a woman's period—generally the lyrics ran on the crass side. She also told a story about a soundcheck in Anaheim where the soundmixer said he didn't understand a thing until they started cursing in English during one song).

After a 20 minute intermission, the band returned with an acoustic set. The first song apparently was their radio-friendly single as all the girls in the audience started shrieking and singing along as they grabbed each other to sway in time with the music. When they picked up their electric guitars, I was in for a surprise as they sang Tarcy's hit "Ya Tze" from a few years back. It was the first song I had heard when I arrived in China, playing out of a barbershop in the hutong we were staying in, and I grabbed Dennis in shock. I pogoged wildly as I sang along with the chorus.

After the show we all sat for a moment, exhausted by the energy of the show and the band. Patty had to move merch and so Jean and I waited around for them to tally up. As the band was packing up we hung out on the curb and chatted, the musicians seemingly shy as they talked about their tour. We were right beside the Sanrio store and so Patty decided we should take their pictures as they posed in front of the Hello Kitty sign (the tour was Christened the Kill Kitty Tour) and they gamely played along. A few die hard fans who had lingered asked for autographs and posed with the band.

We left 42nd street and took the subway to Brooklyn. Patty and I were exhausted and Jean was starving and so the three of us ate at a Greek diner by Jean's house. We chatted about her upcoming wedding, about the show, and I don't remember what else. Patty was disappointed I didn't join her in a milkshake. You put the idea in my head, she told me.

The F train wasn't running by the time we left the diner and so Jean let me sleep on her couch. I was too excited to sleep. Snatches of the concert kept returning to me and I lay on the couch, my ears ringing. Midway through the concert, Patty had told me she was incredibly proud because the music made the audience so proud. I grinned and nodded and danced around like a fool.

Pictures can be found on my new digitfotoblog three.2. Posted by eugene at

October 16, 2004

Brunch at l'Orange Bleu

Yesterday, Catherine asked if I'd be interested in having brunch at l'Orange Bleu. She's been jonesing for their French toast. When we sat down with the menu, she explained that the French toast was called pain perdu, the lost bread. The wealthy would use their old stale bread; the poor what bread they could get. The dish was not like American French toast; it was toasted brioche served with warm fruit in a pool of crème Anglaise. It's the kind of thing you can eat once a year, Catherine said. There must be ten thousand calories.

After our meal the waiter asked if we wanted dessert. Catherine looked up from our plates and said yes. A beefsteak, please. Posted by eugene at

October 14, 2004

Mail call

Yesterday I received my order from Amazon. I had gone to the AIGA's 50 Books 50 Covers show and finally had the time to flip through VII's book of war photography, War: USA Afghanistan Iraq. It's a handsomely designed volume exhibiting some fantastic photojournalism. After spending some time with it I decided I wanted to spend more time with it and ordered it. Eric L had told me that he had seen it at the Strand for $45, but they were out of it. I had to order it online.

This afternoon I received surprise CDs in the mail from Patty. Opening the package I learned they were Chang Cheng Yue's new 2CD set, including his new album (Useless Guy) and a greatest hits package. It reminded me that his concert is this Sunday night at B.B. King's, and I quickly sent out email to friends I thought might be interested. It's the first U.S. tour by a Chinese Rock star, and Patty had a hand in bringing it to fruition. Read more about him and buy tickets here. Posted by eugene at

October 13, 2004

Some T's are smaller than others

Before I left for Turkey I went to Target and bought T-shirts. I found a boy's T that was a third of the cost of the men's T's that fit and I bought it. I was excited about my discovery until I wore the shirt in Turkey and realized that while the size of the large boy's T's are the same as the small men's T's, the vest pocket is smaller. As I tried to cram the Turkish lire I was accustomed to keeping in the pocket, I wondered what was suddenly wrong. I refolded the bills as I usually did, but they wouldn't fit in. And then I realized and looked in the mirror at the mini pocket on the T that seemed to sit so forelornly on my chest. Posted by eugene at

October 12, 2004

Meeting in person

Last night I met GG at a bar in the Lower East Side. She told me that a friend of hers was bartending. I knew of her friend; we all belong to the same online community. When I arrived she looked at me and shoulted out, "Eugene K!" She had recognized me from my profile picture. Posted by eugene at

October 11, 2004

Golden opportunity

I went to dim sum this morning with my cousin Daniel. He started at Columbia a month ago, but I hadn't seen him since he moved to New York. We went to Golden Unicorn, but somewhat late. By the time we arrived, the lobby was packed with people waiting for a table. I walked up to the hostess and told her two. Second floor, she said. I wasn't sure I heard her correctly. Second floor, she repeated. We walked up and handed the next hostess our number. She pointed to a steward who led us to a table. I was shocked. Posted by eugene at

October 10, 2004

Touring two of the five boroughs

I took yesteday off to tour the city. This weekend marks the second annual Open House New York. Every year a number of buildings around New York generally closed to the public are opened up, and free tours are given of the premises. I was determined to see the Pratt Power Plant in Brooklyn. I had missed it last year.

I woke early and left the apartment by 11.30. Tours were given only three times a day for groups of 15 starting at one. I had called to make a reservation, but was told none were being taken for that site. I was told to arrive early. Simone had told me about a tour that was given last year of a closed off subway station. She said the the lines had wrapped around the block. I needn't have worried.

I arrived at 12.30; almost no one was there. A woman told me that they had decided not to stick to the schedule and that tours were being given whenever people showed up. A tour was underway, but if I waited for a few minutes I could go down. We stood over the generators, their flywheels spinning. Switches ran the length of one wall. Five minutes later I was summoned.

The guide lead us around the generators and told us the history of the school and of the plant. He said that the generators created DC current, which was no longer used throughout the school; however, for demonstration purposes, they were generating electricty for the room itself. He flipped some switches and the room was plunged into darkness. The plant is the oldest steam-generating plant of its kind in the Northeast United States, having continuously generated electricity for the facilities of Pratt Institute since 1887.

From the main room he lead us back to the boiler room. Cats scurried underfoot. Later I overheard one person tell another that there were 11 cats on the premises. One never left the boiler room save for when it was hosed down once a week.

The boiler room was still under re-construction. Our guide told us that newer boilers were being installed that ran more efficiently, but that newer more efficient equipment always seemed to run louder. He shouted over the din. He showed us a pump that had been operating for over a hundred years. Someone asked about parts, and he said that the parts were so simple that they could fashion them themselves if the need arose. He said they never bothered replacing it because it ran so smoothly.

As I was leaving I paused to take pictures. A man working at the site told me that the generator was over 114 years old. I told him it was beautiful, and he said it sure was. I asked him how long he had been working at the plant. Me, he asked. He laughed and said, I've only been here 30 years.

I left Pratt and headed back towards the G train, taking it north into Queens. At Court Square I transferred to the 7 and took it to the end of the line. I asked a bus driver where I could find 38th Avenue, and then called Pamela to see where I should eat on my way back.

I walked to the Voelker Orth Museum, Bird Sanctuary, and Victorian Garden, a wood pink house on a corner that looked almost out of place among the new homes built across the street. There, I met Roger, who kept the grounds. I took the tour with a mother and daughter who grew up in Flushing. I would later learn the daughter was 30, though she looked like a teenager. The mother reminisced about how all the houses used to be like this one, and Roger lamented the fact that they were torn down to make room for the boxes that pass as homes now.

The interior was pleasant though small, and much had been done to renovate it. Two older women played Scrabble in the foyer. After we had toured the house, Roger showed us the grounds, which consisted of a small lawn and a shed that once housed the bird sanctuary. It had since been converted to a classroom. Roger repeatedly apologized for not knowing more about the house. He only works weekends and started the week before. Five minutes later, we had walked around the lawn and he told us we were welcome to sit and chat. He asked the mother/daughter couple if they had brought a camera; he offered to take their picture under a wooden canopy. They told him they didn't.

As I left, Roger lead me to a side gate. He shook my hand and thanked me for coming. As I rounded the corner, he shouted out, "Come again!"

I looked at my brochure and at the somewhat sketchy map printed therein. I was tired and hungry, but curious, and so I made my way to the nearby Hindu Temple Society of America. There, I walked into a temple not unlike those I had visited in Sri Lanka, though on a smaller scale. The carvings were not as intricate as those I had seen, but the means of worship were the same. I read a menu of devotional services from which to choose. An area was laid aside for the smashing of coconuts, though no one was making that offering. A sign forbade walking around with lit incense sticks; a fire hazard and a violation of the safety code. People circumscribed altars. A man stood inside the main shrine and tossed holy water on a state of Ganesha. People gathered around him for his blessing.

I left the temple and gathered my shoes. I walked around back to the auditorium and then down into the canteen. Folding chairs were set up around long folding tables in the basement. A gift counter stood along one side. A large screen TV was playing a film or a soap, subtitled in English. A small counter took orders. I looked over the menu and ordered a masala dosa for just over three dollars. I waited and watched the two students working the counter, greeting guests and friends and talking about their semester schedules.

The dosa was delicious.

Making my way back to the train, I was stuffed. I had wanted to eat sao bin, but couldn't imagine eating any more. I boarded the 7 train, planning to get off in Jackson Heights to buy some samosas, but I fell asleep. When I woke, the train was pulling up alongside an N train. I dashed off and, safely ensconced in my seat, promptly fell asleep again. I woke a stop away from my own and, rousing myself, prepared to come home. Posted by eugene at

October 7, 2004


Henry tells me the first frost of the season is due this weekend. The other night the heat went on in my apartment. Winter approaches. Note to Jean: I've started moisturizing again. Posted by eugene at

Parking on the sidewalk

Walking back from pool on Houston, Charlotte and I passed a billboard cut out to make room for an actual car on the sidewalk. I wanted to check to see if the door would open but then I saw the blinking light of a security system. A man was seated in a folding chair on the corner watching us. Charlotte said he was probably paid to make sure no one drove off with the car. "Do you think?" I asked. Of course, she said. Otherwise there'd be scratches and whatnot. I wondered how much he was paid.

In other news, Tulip forwarded me this link to the New York Open House. I missed this last year. This year I want to go to the Pratt Institute Power Plant. Posted by eugene at

October 6, 2004


When I first arrived in Turkey I was obsessed with sneakers. I had spent the past three weeks looking for a pair of kicks and I was still caught up in the search. (Ed was obsessed with cell phones for similar reasons). Every store I passed I had to pause to look at the shoes on display.

In the end I loved my Sauconys. They were cool and comfortable, even while hiking the Kackar mountains. Everyone else was wearing hiking boots. One woman looked at my kicks and said, "You're going trekking in those?"

Last weekend I was talking about shoes with David. Years ago he had done Outward Bound, for which he had bought $300.00 boots. His feet were sore the entire time. Looking at my dusty Shadows, he told me he wished he had worn sneakers. I'm thinking of buying another pair. Posted by eugene at

October 5, 2004

Travel travelling

Yesterday afternoon I had coffee and crepes with Jean. She was in the area visiting the Apple store and shopping for wedding materials (boxes, bags, jackets). We went to Cafe La Palette; the crepes were thin and tasty. I had honey and lemon, Jean had dulce de leche.

She had just come back from Vietnam and we talked about Saigon and Hoi An and travelling Asian countries. Hearing her talk about the country made me want to return immediately. She's been sending around photos and blogging funny stories about her experiences.

I had just finished working on a site of photos I took in Turkey and was taking a break from the rest of the work I had ignored. I'm suddenly really busy these days. Two weeks ago I was worried about finding work and now I'm wondering where I'll find the time to finish it all in between hanging out with various friends who are only in town for a short while. Kit leaves today for London after spending the week here, and Charlotte will soon be heading to Hong Kong. We've been playing a lot of pool. Posted by eugene at

October 3, 2004

A night at the opera

Two weeks ago Yukwah invited me to the opera. We were planning on seeing the new Tsai Ming-Liang film, but she managed to score orchestra seats to Madame Butterfly at the Met. A friend of a friend of hers couldn't use them, and so we were the beneficiaries. It's not my favorite opera, but I had yet to see a Met production of it, and I've never had orchestra seats at an opera. How could I say no?

When I first moved to New York, I was determined to make the most of it. Althought my salary was around $19,000.00 a year, I saw theatre, dance, and opera. . . all from behind the back row. I stood through four hour operas where at times the stage was obscured by the overhanging tiers. Once, I befriended an usher. She was a flautist studying at Juilliard. She apologized that we couldn't be allowed to take empty seats in the orchestra; during the performances they would rope us in.

She told me she was given front row seats once. She told me she was amazed at the way in which the singers over-enunciated the words so that they would remain clear to the listeners in the back rows. I dreamed of one day sitting close enough to experience what she described.

We were in row Q. The seats were fantastic. I turned off the translation and just listened to the music; watched the stage. I knew the plot in broad strokes, but during the intermission read the synopsis to learn the finer points. I wish I hadn't so that I could continue to watch the story unfold, guessing at the meaning.

And in that, I was reminded of a night at the Minamiza Theatre in Kyoto. I sat in the last section, engrossed in a Kabuki performance. The man beside me had broadly described the plot. He was from Osaka and had taken the train to Kyoto specifically for the performance. He would take a train back home that evening.

I sat uncomprehendingly, but found myself caught in the emotion of the events on stage. I knew that a scholar was trying to protect his pupil, the son of a king in danger of losing his throne to a coup. It was only when I bought the program at intermission that I learned he had sacrificed the head of his own son in order to do so.

As I sat reading the synopsis, the people around me asked where I was from. I told them New York and they expressed their sorrow over the events that September. It was just after Thanksgiving in the states. I thanked them for their well-wishes and then sat back to watch the rest of the evening's performances.

It was strange watching Japan filtered back through an Italian opera. I looked at the stage and the costumes and the behaviors and listened to the music. I waited for the famous aria and then let the rest wash over me. During the intermission, Yukwah and I sat in the Lincoln Center courtyard. You couldn't see but twenty stars in the sky. Crowds stood on the terrace, others gathered before the doors. I thought back to the crowds before the Minamiza theatre and remembered the women waiting in traditional dress. And just before the doors opened, I saw a geisha, her ghostly face passing quickly by in the near-dusk. Posted by eugene at


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