June 30, 2005
Overly polite, kind of
A cab pulled up to the curb. A woman stood beside it, waiting for its passengers to alight. An elderly couple walked up behind her. "Excuse me," they said. "Are you waiting for this cab?"
The woman turned. "Yes," she said. "That is, unless you want it?"
The couple hesitated. "Well, no," they said. "Not if you want it."
"Oh," she said, confused. "Thank you," then got in the cab.
June 29, 2005
Five is the new four
They painted the halls of my apartment building about a month ago. I was hoping for spongepainted deep yellow walls with orange trim, but they just updated the original white walls with brown trim job. The trim looks like as if it's wet and congealed on the windowframes.
After painting, they replaced the floor numbers using the American style of numbering. Our building used to be numbered in the European way, where the first floor is the ground floor, and the second floor was the first floor. A month ago, I lived on the fourth floor. Now I live in on the fifth. The first time I walked up the stairs I was surprised how easy the climb had suddenly become. Then I looked at the apartment numbers and realized I had yet another floor to go.
June 28, 2005
I went to Bloomingdales to look for a wallet (Ryan has this great billfold credit card holder that I'm looking to emulate). I shopped to a techno soundtrack and suddenly I felt as if I should be dressed in tight black breathable fabric suspended from the ceiling while a split screen showed an attractive woman with an earpiece accessing the sales floor plans from a high tech terminal to pinpoint the location of the wallet in question. Another split would show the loss prevention expert scanning the floor through his dark glasses. I readied my umbrella for attack.
Or maybe I'm watching too much 24
Last night the sky was overcast. Clouds had descended on the city. Walking down Thompson I saw the base of skyscrapers, their upper stories shrouded by the weather. I was reminded of the mountains in northern Vietnam. I was reminded of zipping between Sapa and Bac Ha on the back of a motorcycle, cutting through the mist. I seem to remember it being four hours each way, but that doesn't seem possible.
I also remembered the World Trade Center, and how it used to stand at the end of the street. How I would walk towards it every night on my way home. It could have been there behind the clouds, hidden as the Empire State Building was hidden and, for a moment, I could have believed it was.
June 27, 2005
BBQ and badmitton
Lynda called me Saturday night to invite me to brunch the next morning. Sereen was in town from D.C. and wanted to meet up. I had to do laundry. But I said yes anyway.
We met at a store on West Broadway. Lynda said that Sereen was trying on dresses and that she wouldn't come out to show me. She told me to wait outside and look at the art. I stayed in and flipped through magazines. When we were done we rode up to Chelsea market and ate at 202, where the restaurant was placed in the middle of a store. "I'll have the scrambled eggs and the striped dress, please." I was wondering if they throw food in with each purchase. A skirt that Lynda liked was around $600.00. It was nice, but out of her budget.
I had commented on Lynda's clothing and jewelry. She said she had exchanged the necklace for the one she had on. She described the other necklace and I said the one she had on was better and told her why. She said I had good taste. I said I might, but that I don't use it on myself.
After brunch I had to make my way to Brooklyn for Teresa's BBQ. I haven't been to a BBQ in years. I promised to bring chips and Chips Ahoy.
For the occasion, Teresa bought a new grill from K-mart. Her friend Vivian bought a badmitton set there, too. The net seemed too wide and too low, as if the manufacturer had turned the plans sideways. Vivian said that she had leftover parts that she didn't use. I asked if some of those were extra pole pieces. She said no and asked if I wanted to play.
I love badmitton. I haven't played in over ten years and now I'm wondering if there's a league I can join. I'm not particularly good (my body today is sore, especially my forearms) but there's something about it I really enjoy. Maybe because it's less strenous than tennis but more strenuous than table tennis (I'm the Goldilocks of sports). We volleyed and then tried to play a match but the low net made it too easy to spike the shuttlecock.
Teresa grilled burgers and hot dogs. The burgers were great. Some fed the flames, some fed her friends. At around eight she doused the coals and we packed up to go back to Manhattan. I had told Guillemette I would stop by to look at the design proofs for her book at 7:15. I was late.
She was alone when I got to the apartment. Her book club had ended and everyone had gone home. Berit was out with her cousin. Guillemette was working on a story. She offered me wine or juice. I chose o.j. and snacked on the leftovers. A raspberry custard tart was especially good. We talked about the book she chose for her book club and the discussion. I hadn't read the book, but was intrigued. She said we could talk about it after I had the chance to read it.
After an hour, I took my leave. A breeze wound its way through the city, cooling the streets, and I decided to walk home. Nearing Astor Place, I heard what I took to be thunder until I looked down the length of 10th Street towards the water. I could see bits of fireworks blocked by the buildings. I walked another block south and had an unadulterated view. I stood on the sidewalk and watched the explosions, between slivers of concrete. Cabs drove by, slowing to see if I would flag them down. Less than five minutes later, it was over, and I continued on home.
A Brighter Summer Day
Saturday I was feeling despondent. I had had a conversation with Cherry the night before about film and publishing and the dreck that gets produced or published and awarded. I had to stop myself and laugh. I told Cherry I should probably create some great work of art before lamenting what others were doing. At brunch, Eric said I didn't. That people can judge based on their own tastes without having to have created something that reflected their ideals. He said it in so many words.
After lunch we went to MoMA to see Edward Yang's A Brighter Summer Day
. It's a film about the tensions inherent in Taiwanese society in the 60s, after the Nationalists had come to the island, the memory of the Japanese occupation still fresh in people's minds. The film follows a good student as he tries to navigate his world surrounded by street gangs. His parents are good people, but struggling to raise their children; their difficulties are compounded by the uncertainty of their own future, having emigrated from the mainland. Yang based some of the film on his own experiences, having been born in Shanghai and brought up in Taipei, and also on the true story of the first juvenille homocide case in Taiwain. It's an epic film, unspooling at just under four hours, and a depressing one that trains its eye on the complex social issues of that particularly transitional time in Taiwan's history.
Afterwards, I didn't know what to say. We decided to eat menchanko at a midtown noodle shop and left our minds to themselves to try and process what we had just seen. Sated, we parted ways. Eric had to meet Sonia in Astoria for a housewarming party, and I had told Teru I'd meet him at the slideluck potshow on the west side. I walked over.
Just outside, I met a German photographer and his girlfriend. The space was huge and we grabbed drinks and snacks and chatted on the terrace. A breeze blew in from the river. His girlfriend worked as a curator for a private individual. She said it was surreal being in that world. Where her employer acquired works at Sotheby's, used personal shoppers for her clothing, and butlers roamed the halls.
Teru and Adam came in as the slideshows were about to get under way. A man got up and began to lecture. We couldn't tell if he were serious or if it was performance art. Teru thought he might be serious. We wandered back out to the terrace to await the true start of the show and we ran into a bunch of people I knew but had never met from Lightstalkers.
On the way home my mind drifted back to the film. I replayed scenes and emotions. At home I tried to watch an episode of 24
but it suddenly seemed too artificial and so I went to bed.
Friday night Teresa asked if I wanted to see a movie with her. She said that One Night in Monkok
was playing as part of the New York Asian Film fest. It had won a number of Hong Kong film awards.
I met her at the theater at six. We wandered in and found seats. A man gave out slips of paper for a drawing. Teresa said she wasn't interested. "It's probably a poster," she said. I said that if the prize was two round-trip tickets to Hong Kong I wouldn't invite her.
Just before the film began a man walked up on stage with the prizes. There was a mug, three DVDs, a book on Asian horror films, and a poster of Ji-woon Kim's film A Tale of Two Sisters
. I leaned over to Teresa and whispered, "I hope I don't win."
He introduced the film, remarking how one of the protagonists was an "older man. In his mid-thirties." Teresa started laughing. The entire row shook with her mirth.
The movie was terrible. At times It wanted to be Infernal Affairs
, but was a flat, washed-out film. I had heard of the recent sorry state of Hong Kong films, and seeing the film unfortunately confirmed it.
Afterwards we walked to Chinatown to eat pho. Teresa mentioned she was seeing a friend afterwards to watch 24
. She had bought the DVDs and they were currently in the middle of season three. I asked Teresa if she thought her friend would lend me season one. She said she'd ask.
We walked across the street and she introduced me to Vivian. Her apartment was cute and cool. An air-conditioner whirred in a window. She handed me the DVDs, still sealed in the package. I asked her if she wanted to open it. She said no, as long as I opened it carefully. "No teeth marks," she said.
At midnight I decided to watch an episode of the show before going to bed. I had heard a lot about it but never seen it. I put the first DVD in. Four episodes later, I had to force myself to stop. I was meeting Eric in the morning for brunch before seeing A Brighter Summer Day
at MoMA, a four-hour Edward Yang film.
June 26, 2005
Saturday night I stopped in a deli on 35th street to buy alcohol to bring to a party. The cashier asked to see my ID. I gave it to him and he looked at it a full minute, turning it this way and that before looking up at me. "'71?" he asked. I nodded. "So old!" he said. "But look so young!"
June 24, 2005
Running into people
Last night I went to Elinor's opening in Chelsea. A block from the gallery, I ran into Matt. He works on the upper west side, but his office had just gone bowling at Chelsea piers. I hadn't seen him in a while and we stopped to chat before going our separate ways.
Elinor's show, which documented her other profession as a Middle East dancer, was fantastic. Half of the photos were taken with a Horizon panoramic camera, which offered dramatic compositions which seemed to take up one's entire field of vision. Her prints, which she makes herself, were detailed and rich. I talked to Eran, met their twin children, bought a book, and ran into Teresa. I had mentioned the show to her earlier but she was noncommital. She was doing the rounds, on her way to Liu Zheng''s show at the Yossi Milo Gallery (later she would tell me it was full of hipsters and very few Chinese people). I told Eran I'd call him next week. I seem to only see them whenever Elinor has a new show.
I walked to Irving Place to meet Yasmin. She was having drinks for her birthday. I met her friends and we chatted about publishing, travelling in Southeast Asia, and retirement communities. I left around nine-thirty. I was supposed to go to Williamsburg, but it was getting late and the night was too nice to go underground. And I had some work to do. I walked home.
En route I ran into Sabah. She said we always seem to run into each other at 11 pm on our way back from drinks. We talked about the healing power of yoga and eating what we wanted. She was starving and so we parted ways at the Morton Williams. She wanted to get food.
Back at home I looked out the window to see the moon still low on the horizon, looking as big as I had ever seen it. I poured a glass of water, then went to my desk and sat down. I didn't get up until late.
There's a bird flying by the window. I can't see it; it's always out of the corner of my eye.
June 23, 2005
A Lincoln Center evening
Last night, Lincoln Center celebrated Gay Pride by hosting the Village People as part of their Midsummer Nights Swing series. A light rain fell on the plaza, but a DJ spun disco tunes as the crowds gathered. Some held umbrellas, some sheltered next to the concert halls.
At seven, dance lessons began. Two men took to the stage to teach the assembled how to dance the hustle. He showed the initial steprock-step, step, and turnand then told the crowd to try it. "Men facing the fountain, women back to the fountain," he said, then corrected himself. "Leaders facing the fountain, followers with their backs to the fountain." He demonstrated and watched his students before teaching them how to lead a turn. Midway through that demonstration, the rain started to fall in earnest. The instructor apologized. "I've been told we have to stop because of the rain, but hopefully it'll end and we can continue. Please clear the dance floor."
The DJ took to the stage and kept playing music. People crowded next to the buildings, under the overhangs. They waited. A few people took to the plaza and did the electric slide as the rain began to soften and slow.
I was there for the ballet. The American Ballet Theater was staging a Fokine celebration at the Met and I had wanted to see Petrouchka, never having seen it before. It was ok. I tend not to be a fan of story ballets (with the exception of Giselle, but that might have also had something to do with where and when I saw it). There seemed to be a lot of extraneous action on stage that set a scene, but spent too long setting it. Or maybe I'm just not well versed enough in ballet to appreciate it.
During the second intermission I walked out onto the veranda of the theater. The Village People (if they had performed) had finished their set and the DJ was playing "Dancing Queen." I looked around for someone to dance with; the crowd around me looked to be in their late sixties.
At the end, the ABT performed the Polovtsian Dances from Alexander Borodin's opera Prince Igor, and I experienced my favorite moment of the evening. Dancers were arranged in a tableaux on stage, dressed in hunting gear. From stage left a woman appeared. Her body was not the traditional type for a ballerina and I was curious as to the role she would play. The dancers on stage didn't move. The woman walked a third of the way into the stage and turned to face the audience. Then she opened her mouth and sang.
June 22, 2005
Ok. It's been a while since I've blogged and I'm finally picking up the musical baton to jump start my blog:
1. The person who passed the baton to you
2. Total volume of music files on your computer
42.93 GB. Can that be right? It's time to purge.
3. The title and artist of the last CD you bought.
, Madvillan. And it was on vinyl.
4. Song playing at the moment of writing
I'm listening to news on NPR at the moment.
5. Five songs you have been listening to of late or all-time favorites, or particularly personally meaningful songs
Six songs that I've been listening to recently:
"Daylight," Maximilian Hecker
"Straight out of Compton," Nina Gordon
"These Days," Nico
"Give Me Back My Dreams," The 6ths
"Perfidia," Xavier Cugat
6. The five people to whom you will 'pass the musical baton.'
June 13, 2005
I had no plans this weekend. It was hot and humid and everyone seemed busy. Saturday I went to Queens to the Museum of the Moving Image. I'd never been and I was curious. I took the N almost to the end of the line and walked the few blocks, past Greek restaurants and cafes, to the museum. I had also gone to see Zhang Ke Jia's new film, The World. The museum was fun, though goofing off might have been more fun with someone else. The displays were entertaining. I dubbed Audrey Hepburn's voice in My Fair Lady, and I tried my hand at panning and scanning West Side Story for broadcast on TV.
On the ground floor I played Katamari Damacy for the first time and failed badly at a version of Dance Dance Revolution with which I was unfamiliar. At four I watched Zhang Ke Jia's new film, The World. Set in a Beijing theme park (not unlike Epcot center's world pavillion), it traces the lives of various characters who have come from small villages to find work at the park. At times, he pulls back to comment on the action by showing the large stage shows put on for visitors. Brilliantly lit and costumed, and set to music by Lim Giong, the scenes recall the video work of Sarah Morris' work. In the end, it's a depressing look at the the disillusioned lives of people who are still trapped in smaller worlds even as they appear to travel easily between countries.
Afterwards, I ate at a Greek restaurant and waited out a thunder storm. I ordered shark and potatoes and left just as the rain was letting up. The storm was over by the time I emerged from the subway back in SoHo. That night I watched Amelie.
Sunday I left the house and walked north. I had no destination in mind; I just didn't want to sit in my apartment as the day got gotter. I walked up Sixth avenue to 8th street and looked for shoes. I kept walking, stopping at Old Navy and Bed Bath and Beyond. Soon i was passing Macy's and branched off onto Broadway. I walked back through Times Square and to Colubmus Circle. I walked into the mall and checked to see who was performing at Jazz at Lincoln Center. I walked up to Lincoln Center and wandered through an arts and crafts fair that had taken over the pavillions. I kept walking and ran into Simone and David at 72nd street. They were sitting in a small park by the subway station, between Broadway and Amsterdam. We sat in the shade and tried to cool off. I asked if they wanted to play pool. David thought it was too early. I said it was air-conditioned. We decided to eat.
When we reached Zabars we decided to sample some cheese. As we bought cheese we decided to picnic in Riverside Park. We bought more cheese and grapes and bread and then walked to the river. We walked in through the boat basin and then found a bench looking out over the Hudson. We ate the grapes, the bread, and two blocks of cheese. The sun came out from behind the clouds and our bench became too hot. We walked further north and stopped by the dog park to sit in the shade for a while before I walked them home to 96th street. On the corner at Broadway, we got Italian ice. David recommended the cocnonut, but they were out of it. He said I'd have to come back. Maybe next weekend I'll try visiting Riverside Church and Grant's tomb.
Friday night, Mimi joined me at Le Bernardin. Ostensibly it was a birthday dinner; we weren't alone. Candles appeared on numerous desserts set on tables around us. The room was pleasant and softly lit, but had the strange air of a hotel restaurant. Miscellaneous art lined the walls. Conversations murmured around us, never so loud as to distract us from our own, though Mimi became fascinated by a couple near us who seemed to be experiencing relationship troubles.
We ordered the chef's tasting menu and prepared ourselves for the onslaught of courses. Mimi asked about the menu; it looked as if it had changed. Luis, our waiter, said it had, just three days ago.
We began with scallops, thinly sliced, splashed with lemon and extra virgin olive oil and topped with chives. The scallops were enormous, served with toast. They were delicious, an early high point to the meal. Mimi wasn't sure she wanted them with toast, but once she had them together, she could see how they complemented each other perfectly. The toast offered a texture to counterpoint the buttery richness of the fish.
Next, we were served poached French white asparagus, topped with Iranian osetra caviar sabayon. The asparagus arrived first, and then our waiter dished out the sauce. The sauce was tasty, nicely salted by the caviar, but knowing there were four courses to come (plus two courses of dessert) I refrained from licking the plate. Mimi had no such qualms.
A small fillet of Hawaiian escolar arrived next. Slowly poached in extra virgin olive oil, it came served with a petite salad of lettuce hearts and tomato confit. The salad was refreshing (though Mimi complained about the cucumber); the tuna was fine.
Lobster was the next course, baked and served with a citrus-mango emulsion, endives, and sheep's milk ricotta gnocchi. The cheese paired with the lobster was the most surprising and tasty combination. Combined with the sauce it easily lept to my second favorite dish of the evening.
A barely cooked salmon was next, paired with a wasabi pea purée, fava beans, and asparagus in a yuzu (the fruit of the moment) butter. The wasabi was barely hinted at, and the mixture of sauces made them hard to discern.
The final entree was a pan roasted codfish served with sauteed baby artichockes, pistachio and parmesan in a sage and garlic perfumed broth. The cod, while not my favorite fish, was exquisitely prepared. Paired with the broth it moved just behind the lobster to rank third in my favorite dishes of the evening. I tilted the bowl to ladle out the last bit of soup.
When our first dessert arrived, Mimi said she had been waiting the entire meal for this moment. A millk chocolate pot de crème was served in a hollowed out egg shell, topped with caramel foam, maple syrup, and maldon sea salt. The sea salt brought out the caramel, and let it linger on the tongue as you reached the chocolate underneath. Mimi's raves were well-justified.
The second dessert was an almond pain de gênes, with vanilla-roasted pineapple coconut sorbet and crushed pistachios. The dessert was good, but paled compared to the pot de crème. I said I loved pineapple, and Mimi concurred. "An underrated fruit," she said. I said it was so good by itself that I wondered why people bothered roasting it or changing its flavor. She agreed.
Before a final sampling of sweets arrived at the table, a citrus parfait appeared with a candle stuck in the center of it. Mimi said she wondered when it would appear. I made a quick wish and blew out the candle. We slowly ate our dessert and looked around the now almost empty room. We had arrived at 8.30 and it was now nearing midnight. The food was very fresh and well prepared, but I found myself less than completely impressed, given the cost. Maybe it's a type of food and a way of preparation I'm not accustomed to. I was glad I went, but I didn't think I'd be returning.
We walked down Seventh a ways before finding a cab. We walked through Times Square and watched, along with the crowds, various artists plying their trades. Every few blocks we seemed to see the same styles: the Chinese artists painting names, the spray paint artists painting futuristic scenes of the city. Mimi said she never walked there and said it was like being on vacation.
June 9, 2005
Last night Julie invited me over for dinner. We had been talking in the afternoon and she mentioned she was making tom yum for dinner. I asked her who for. She said for herself. But that if I wanted I could come over. I told her I was going swimming but I'd call her afterwards.
She warned me the soup would be very spicy. I said I'd bring over Vitamin Water.
She lives across the street from the Gershwin Theater. As I arrived I saw a woman walking by with a witch's hat, but the show had already started.
Dinner was fantastic. Julie made sauteed snow pea leaves and a tomato omlette to complement her soup. We watched the Food network. She said she got the snow pea leaves in Chinatown for a dollar. I wished it were cooler so I could make some of my own this weekend. I love sauteed snow pea leaves.
June 8, 2005
Daniel Lanois at the Hiro Ballroom
Last night I went to see Daniel Lanois at the Hiro Ballroom. The ballroom is in the basement of the Maritime Hotel, next to the Japanese restaurant. It boasts a kabuki stage and huge barrel ceilings. Lanterns dot the space, hanging from the rafters or suspended on posts. It's a small, intimate space.
The concert was advertised as starting at 8.00pm, but Lanois didn't appear until near nine. An announcer said he would be debuting his new album, an instrumental work called Belladonna
, and he proceeded to play track after track, sometimes on pedal steel guitar, sometimes on his electric guitar. Behind him, his drummer played throughout, the band augmented occassionally by a second guitar and a bassist who doubled on keyboards. Towards the end, a trumpet player emerged from the crowd, and a singer joined the band. For one song, a woman appeared on stage to do an interpretive dance.
The music was pleasant in the way of Daniel Lanois, but felt like jams in search of songs to be pegged to. My attention wandered. At the end of his set, Lanois apologized to people who had come hoping to hear songs, but said that they had decided to stick with the instrumentals. He left the stage as people called for an encore. A few minutes later he reappeared with his drummer and they began to play "The Maker." Suddenly, the evening was worth it. He called out to the rest of his band to join (they were drinking whiskey in the back) and soon everyone was on the stage, drawing out the song into an extended jam that finally seemed to make sense.
June 7, 2005
Blue Ribbon dinner
Kee called and asked me if I had plans for the evening. She said she wanted to take me out for dinner. It was raining off and on and we decided to eat nearby. I suggested Blue Ribbon since they don't take reservations.
As we sat down, Kee asked if I noticed who I had held the door for. I said no. She said that actor. "You know. Saturday Night Live? Mini-me?" Austin Powers? I guessed. She asked the waiter. Mike Meyers, he said. "Oh," I replied. "I didn't even notice." "I suppose it's that kind of neighborhood," he said.
Dinner was excellent; dessert was not. We started with the sauteed calimari, which was very tender and served in a slight butter sauce, and seaweed salad, served with tofu and shaved carrots. We then moved to a platter of half a dozen oysters, which were incredibly fresh and well prepared. For dinner, Kee had the sweet and spicy catfish served with mashed potatoes, collards, and tartar sauce. It was the best catfish I had ever tasted. She said that the catfish at Kin Khao topped it, though they had long stopped serving it. I had a tasty dish of soft shell crabs served with mushroom rice and spinach. For dessert we shared the uninspired Chocolate Bruno, a flourless chocolate cake served with chocolate and vanilla ice cream. The ice creams were lacking depth, and the cake was somewhat formless. After a few bites I was done, but felt compelled to (almost) finish it. I was thinking I should have come home and had some of the much more delicious chocolate cake from the day before.
After dinner we walked the block or two back to our apartments. Lightning began to flash across the sky, and as I said good night it began to rain. I thanked her for dinner and crossed the street just as the rain started in earnest.
June 5, 2005
It was my birthday
Yesterday it was my birthday. I woke up early and went to the MoMA around 11 to try to sneak into the member's preview of the Lee Friedlander show. At the counter, the woman said I had to be a MoMA member. I said it was my birthday. She said there were people outside the exhibit checking membership cards. She gave me my ticket and I took the escalator up to the sixth floor.
At the exhibit, I asked if I could get in. The woman scanned my ticket and waved me in. I said thank you.
The exhibit was amazing, making me rethink the way in which photographs can be composed. The prints were sumptuous, and as I moved from his 35mm prints to his medium format landscape photography, I was completely drawn in. On leaving, I bought the exhibition catalogue. The cashier asked if I wanted it double-bagged. I said yes; the book is 13 pounds.
I walked down 7th Avenue, through a street fair en route to the subway. I went home to drop off the book before heading to Chinatown and Sweet and Tart for a lunch of shrimp dumplings in noodle soup. After lunch I walked to South Ferry caught the 2.30 Staten Island Ferry. The sky was clear, and the decks were full with people looking out for the Statue of Liberty. Once on the island, I took a bus to Lighthouse Avenue and climbed the hill to the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art. Flooding had forced them to remove a number of items from the museum, and the docent told me that at the entrance to the museum they sold postcards of what the museum usually looks like. She said that renovations shouldn't last more than a few months and I promised to return later in the season.
I took a turn around the gardens before leaving. Looking through the postcards, I couldn't find the image the docent referred to. I asked an attendant, and she said it was no wonder. The room looks completely different. She pulled out a postcard and I was shocked at the difference. Murals that lined the wall had been removed, as well as a carpet and cushions. I promised to return later in the summer; I was told to wait a little longer and to check the website for updates.
I ran down the hill to catch the bus back to the ferry landing. It was packed. I stood and swayed my way back through Staten Island, arriving at the ferry in time for the 5 o'clock ferry. The ferry was 10 minutes late. I made it back to Manhattan and boarded the subway for Brooklyn.
I arrived at BAM at 6.20. Cherry appeared soon after and we walked into the theater for a screening of Hou Hsiao-Hsien's Cafe Lumiere
. It was playing for the one night only as part of the Village Voice best of 2004 series. The film is lovely. Near the end, I was thinking that something had to happen. When the final song was cued, I realized what had already happened and I fell in love with the film.
Afterwards, Cherry and I walked to Smith Street and had dinner at Tuk Tuk. The food was mediocre, but it was still somehow more fun eating there than at Le Bernardin (my original plan for the evening). We chatted about the film and this and that and the other thing and then went looking for a bakery. Failing that we went to a diner for milkshakes and shortcake.
Around 11 we parted ways at the F train. I took photos of Cherry as the train approached, echoing the final shots of Cafe Lumiere
from across the platform. I don't think they'll come out quite as well, and I didn't realize what I was doing until I had boarded the train heading back towards Manhattan. Through a scratched window, I watched as Cherry disappeared into the tunnels.
In Manhattan I stopped by Ivo and Lulu to invite Sebastian to small gathering I'm having today and to ask whether he had any chocolate cake. He said he had made plans for Sunday with his mother and couldn't make it. He said he had a little cake left, but the waitress had promised it to a party who had waited an hour to get seated. But he said he'd have it all week. I said I'd stop by later and hoped to meet his mom. Definitely, he said.
As I entered the apartment building I looked at my watch. It was midnight, the first hour of the 5th, and my birthday had passed.
June 2, 2005
Cannes Journal: Saturday
Saturday started slowly. The festival was winding down and no one wanted to work. Stevie called and told Kit that he was interviewing Hou Hsiao-Hsien that afternoon if she wanted to be part of his crew. She quickly got ready and left. John, Cherry, and I ate lunch in a nearby cafe before leaving to get ready for the rest of the day. The awards ceremony was that evening and we were to bring Kit her evening clothes at four.
After lunch we changed and went to camp out at the Hotel Carlton. Kit arrived in her jeans and then disappeared with Cherry to change. John and I had drinks and waited. I gave him Eric's information so they could coordinate where they would meet up. An hour later Kit and Cherry reappeared. We finished our drinks and left John at the table. Eric was on his way.
The directors were lead away. They were to drive around the block so they could arrive in automobiles to walk the red carpet. Elise walked us to the red carpet and we entered the Theatre Lumiere. We found our seats at the foot of the stage and watched the procession on screen. The room filled slowly. Elise came by to chat, and I thanked her for everything she had done. When Kit arrived, I quickly took photos of the screen. Another actress arrived at the same time, and the editor kept cutting to her. I muttered to Cherry that we had seen enough of her; I wanted to see Kit.
Soon Kit was sitting beside us. She jokingly said that when they arrived on the carpet, the photographers declined to take photos, even after they were announced. Pascal, the director of Baby Shark
, looked at the seating arrangements and predicted that Kitchen
would win since Alice was sitting closest to the stage and the show had to run within its alloted 45 minutes for French TV. He was having a blast.
The ceremony began promptly and suddenly they were announcing the short film competition. There was to be a special mention and then the Palme d'Or. The special mention went to Clara
, an animated short, and the Palme d'Or to . . . Igor for Podorozhni
. Kit, Cherry, and I erupted into applause and stood. Igor raised his arms triumphant. His wife looked on, wearing the dress she had worn to their wedding. It was over in minutes.
Later, Kit said that she was happy he won. He was deserving and it would no doubt help him greatly. I said that I was surprised how happy I was even though she hadn't won. After seeing all the films and directors in competition, it was amazing just being selected to attend. And of all the short films, Igor's was the only film that could have won over Kit's that would have made me as happy as I was.
The ceremony continued, with celebrity presenters and guests. When Jim Jarmusch won, he gave a particularly inspiring speech. He said he didn't believe in competitions in artistic endeavors. He spoke of how honored he was just to be selected and to be in the company of the other directors. He named them all, and after speaking Hou Hsiao-Hsien's name, he included, "of whom I'm a student." He spoke of all the directors selected to be at Cannes as belonging to one tribe, and he spoke of how proud he was to be counted among them. And he thanked everyone and he left.
After the ceremony we milled about the lobby of the theater, congratulating people. We walked back to the Carlton to join John, Eric, Sonia, and Renee. We toasted with champagne and talked about film and the ceremony. They had seen the ceremony on the tv in the hotel lobby. Everyone was dressed to the nines.
At ten we walked Kit and Cherry to the dinner celebrating the directors in competition. Tickets were scarce. We ate dinner across the street, along the Croisette. At midnight, the sky erupted in a 45 minute fireworks display. Kit called John to ask him if he was watching. He said she knew he loved fireworks. We walked to the edge of the water and watched as they lit the sea beneath them and faces of people lining the beaches.
Around one, Kit and Cherry arrived. Eric had walked Sonia back home, but then rejoined our party. We had two invites to another party, and Cherry decided to go with Eric. I went back to the hotel with Kit and John. We were exhausted, and I had to finish packing for my 7 am flight. I said goodnight to Kit and we made vague plans to meet again in Paris or New York in July.
Cherry got back around three. We chatted briefly and I called a cab. We said goodnight and goodbye, to meet back in New York a week later.
I arrived home around noon on Sunday. While checking email, Kit im'd me. She was back in London. "You'll never guess who I met at the airport." I made a wild guess and then i guessed Hou Hsiao-Hsien. Yes! she wrote. When she and John had arrived at the airport, she thought he heard his voice. John encouraged her to go out and check. He was smoking a cigarette with his assistant and Kit went to join them. She congratulated him on his film and mentioned she was in competition in the short film category but had lossed. He laughed and supposed he had lost as well. They talked briefly and then it was time to go. I couldn't believe it as I read the words of her im.
I thought back over the last week, drinking wine and coffee with her and Cherry, attending the parties, running from hotel to hotel for meetings, meeting filmmakers, seeing her film in competition at the festival, walking the red carpet, fixing breakfast at the hotel after too little sleep and then stepping out on the balcony to see the Mediterranean bathed in the morning light, attending the premiere of Hou Hsiao-Hsien's new film at the Theatre Lumiere. It had all become scenes in what appeared to be one long dream, and I felt my skin prickle as I thought of what Kit had done and at the potential of what was to come, and my eyes began to burn as tears once again welled up in them.
June 1, 2005
Cannes Journal: Friday
Kit's film screened in competition Friday morning. The judges were introduced and the directors called up on stage. Then the lights went down and the Cannes logo appeared on the screen. I cried when I saw it. I couldn't believe we were there and I couldn't believe that Kit's film had been selected to compete. The first film, a French production called Kitchen
, elicited laughs and boasted a beautiful final shot of the actress walking down a Parisian street at dusk. The credits rolled; Kit's film was next.
A telephone rang against the black screen as the opening titles appeared. Then the opening pan. I had never seen her film looking or sounding as good. It was beautiful. When the film was over, a man next to me whispered to his friend, "That was really good." I was crying. I cried through the entire closing credits. My body was shaking.
I recovered enough to watch the next film. My favorite film next to Kit's was a Ukrainian film shot in black and white. Called Podorozhni (Wayfarers)
, it was directed by Igor Strembitskyy and featured vignettes of people accompanied by a poetic voice over narration.
The most amazing film technically was a Hungarian film done in one 360° shot, Before Dawn
, by Balint Kenyeres. But while it was beautiful and technically astounding, the film felt hollow, lacking emotion or context in which to place the events.
After the screening I met up with Cherry and Kit in the lobby of the theater. The films were all fantastic and idosyncratic, exhibiting the style of the director. Cherry was thrilled. She whispered to me, "I think Kit might win. I don't want to say it, but I said it!" I laughed and agreed; I said I thought there were three possibilities. We all loved the Ukranian film. Kit thought Before Dawn
had a shot. I didn't. I thought another French film had an outside chance. Eric, Sonia, and Renee were nearby chatting with other people.
We all went to a nearby cafe for lunch, along with Helena Brooks the New Zealand director of Nothing Special
and some of her friends. The sun shone brightly. I fielded a call for Eric from Ramsey. He said that people from Lincoln Center were interested in interviewing Kit at four. At three, Kit, Cherry, and I returned to the Palais des Festivals for the second screening of the shorts program to watch her film again. Afterwards, I walked with them to the hotel in which they were to meet with Lincoln Center and I returned to the office to pick up tickets to various parties and screenings.
That night, Kit, Cherry, John, and I walked the red carpet for the premiere of Hou Hsiao-Hsien's Three Times
. The movie is beautiful; the first shot is mesmerizing. Broken into three parts, he explores three emotional times in life set in three different time periods using the same two actors. The middle section was utterly surprising. After the screening the audience rose to applaud the director and his actors. Both Shu Qi and Chang Chen were in attendance.
Afterwards, we went to dinner. We all wanted Chinese food after watching the film and found a lonely restaurant on an otherwise darkened street. We ordered and when the food came, everything was bathed in a brown sauce. The food was lackuster, but it didn't matter. We had just come from a beautiful film and were eating and drinking at Cannes. And the next day, the awards would be announced.