December 28, 2005
Christmas was a much quieter affair than Thanksgiving. I ate, slept,read, and watched movies. It was fairly typical. My parents made great food the entire weekend. We had fish, duck with sticky rice stuffing (super scrumpdiliumptious), stir-fried asparagus, chicken with carrots and mushrooms, beef tendon, the list goes on. On Christmas day, I opened my presents to find underwear, and a nice orange shirt that I ended up wearing the rest of the day.
After lunch, we went to Foxwoods to hear Cai Qin sing. There, I ran into an uncle from Boston. They had taken a bus from Chinatown down to see the show.
Cai Qin's show was minimal, consisting of herself and nine musicians on the stage. The better to focus on the songs and her voice, she said. She kept up banter between each song, talking about this and that. I didn't recognize any of her songs until she mentioned that her next song had been selected to be played in Infernal Affairs. She said it started acappella, and I immediately knew what she was about to sing. It was the high point of the concert for me.
After her first set, she left the stage to return moments later in a green dress with a white boa. She sang a few older songs (a few of which I recognized) and then bid everyone a good night. Most of the theater got up to leave. When she returned, people hurried to sit back down. She said she'd do another song and joked to lock the doors so people couldn't leave.
The rest of the weekend, I just read and watched movies. I tested the new camera and took a roll of my parents unwrapping presents, making dinner, and fixing the stereo. I get the contact sheets back today. I can't wait to see the results!
December 21, 2005
The past two nights I've been packing boxes for Kee. She's been slammed with holiday orders; she's working all hours. Her assistants have been staying over her house as well, what with the hours they've been working and the strike.
So far the strike hasn't affected me much. I live five short blocks from work, and I've already bought my bus ticket home, courtesy of a Chinatown bus line.
This past weekend I went to Rachel's holiday party in Queens. She made four types of cookies and a brown sugar glazed ham. Everything was delicious. And when I left, she gave me a bag of cookies to take home. I ate them all the next day and felt sick.
That evening, I went to the Met to see the van Gogh drawings. The museum was relatively empty, and the crowd at the exhibit was manageable. The exhibit was fantastic. Afterwards, I took a bus south from the museum, but the traffic was terrible. I alighted at 57th and hopped the subway home.
December 19, 2005
I just bought an M6. I've been lusting after one for years. Occasionally, when I feel somewhat flush with cash, I troll ebay. But then I wonder about the sellers and how certain I can be they'll deliver. The cameras don't come cheap.
On a whim, I checked Craigslist. Someone was selling a bunch of cameras and lenses for $3500 obo. Among them was a Leica M6 with a 2.0/35 ASPH Summicron lens. I sent him an email and waited.
Sunday night, I received a response. We exchanged emails and then I called him. He said he was shocked at the response to his ad. No one seemed interested in his Nikon equipment, but everyone was calling about the Leica. He said that he was feeling harrassed by some of the potential buyers. He told me the best offer he had received so far, and while I was hoping for a little less, I said I might be able to match it. He said some people had looked at the camera and they had proclaimed it near mint. They offered to pay by check, but that he wasn't accepting checks. He didn't believe in checks. He said that they always bounced. He was looking for someone to pay in cash, and that the first person who gave him cash would get the camera. I asked if I could come see it. He said yes and we arranged to meet Monday at noon by the 30th Avenue subway stop in Astoria.
With a subway strike looming, I took the train from Prince Street. The trains were slow. I transferred to an N at 14th Street and took it into Queens. The day was clear but cold. When I got to the street level, I called. Joey answered and said he was near the Trade Mark supermarket. I walked towards the store looking for him. I passed a man on a cell phone and looked at him and pointed. He wasn't talking into his phone but I heard Joey's voice. I smiled and apologized. It turned out he was waiting in his car.
Joey told me he's an exterminator. The camera equipment was left by his uncle, who had recently died. He said that his uncle had left him a storage bill of $800.00, and that the storage facility housed cameras, clothes, and furniture. His uncle had recently rented a new house and furnished it with new furniture in anticipation of a few lucrative gigs (his uncle was as photographer). But the gigs fell through. He had spent all his money on the furniture and was soon unable to pay the rent. He was evicted. Then he caught pnemonia and died.
Joey was about to throw everything away until a friend came over with another friend who was a photographer. The photographer friend took one look at the equipment Joey was about to trash. "Do you know how much this is worth?" he asked. "A couple of hundred dollars," Joey guessed. "Try a few thousand," his friend said. Joey looked up a few things on ebay and then decided to list on CL. Then the calls started coming in.
I took a look at the camera and knew I wanted it. It's TTL as opposed to classic, but I can't remember now the differences and I was tired of constantly looking for a good deal on a used M6. I told Joey I had $800.00 in cash and could pay the rest by check. He said no. He didn't have a checking account and he reiterated the fact that he felt checks always seemed to bounce. I went to the bank to withdraw more money, but I had hit my ATM limit for the day. I wrote a check to myself and had it cashed.
Walking back to Joey's car, I saw he was on the phone. "It's that other lady," he told me. A woman had called earlier offering more money for the camera. He told her he was already meeting me and that if I had the cash, then it was mine. The woman had called begging him not to sell. He said it was too late.
I gave Joey the money and asked him to write a receipt. He said if he had known I wanted one he would have used one of his printed ones. Either from his brother's business selling pianos or from his exterminating company. He said he didn't understand cameras. He said he's happy using a disposable and was still in awe that a camera could fetch so much money. He said that he had found a buyer for one of the Nikons and was meeting him on the opposite corner in another 1/2 hour.
When he was done counting the money, he offered me a ride back into the city. I thanked him and said that the train took me right back to work. I told him that as soon as I had made some images with the camera I'd email him some. He thanked me. I said goodbye to his daughter, who was hiding in the car. She was home sick for the day, and very pleased. He got back into his car to wait for his next meeting, and I turned to walk back to the subway, beaming all the way.
December 15, 2005
Sugi and Michael planned a surprise party for Lin last night. Up until Monday she still hadn't set a time. And then she emailed to tell us the cat was out of the bag and that we could show up anytime. It turns out Ed had emailed her on the wrong day and spilled the beans. Though Michael said she had been hammering him for information.
The food was great. When Jean and I complimented Sugi, she said everything was bought. Michael had brought the lamb from Citarella, the cous cous was from Whole Foods. We told her the cakes were great. She said they were simple. They were very tasty.
At the end of the night, there were leftovers aplenty. Sugi sent me home with cake, cous cous, and a delicious lobster salad. I shared a cab with Jean and one of her friends. She was meeting up with Joy, who I had met earlier in the evening. I wanted to, but declined. I was tired and hadn't slept much and so I went home. This morning Jean told me they were up all night talking. She didn't get home until seven.
December 14, 2005
Mushrooms and emotion
Monday night, Guillemette invited me over to view Gilles' slideshow. I was the only non-journalist. She was making a dinner to fulfill her blog apetit obligations; the ingredients were mushroom and emotion. I immediately said yes and told her not to tell Gilles, but that I was coming for the mushrooms.
Gilles had just come back from China, where he had been living for the better part of a year. I arrived late, but was still on the early side; only two other guests were there. I poured a glass of wine and caught up with Catherine. When the room was full and all the chairs occupied, Guillemette served dinner. A salad was already on the table, along with various cheeses. She brought out a mushroom and magret de canard tarte. It was delicious. The pastry was flakey, as if she had blown compressed air through the layers of dough. The mushrooms and magret were coated in cheese. I went back for two servings and piled my plate with salad. On a side table were small cakes. I took several.
As dinner was winding down, Guillemette leaned over to me. She told me that the cakes were for dessert; she was hoping to save them for later, but would make an exception in my case. Gilles set up his projector and showed four sets of pictures: one on the subway, one on a theater troupe, one on the Three Gorges Dam, and one workers coming to the city. Applause followed each set.
Afterwards, I had to take my leave. I had told Shinji I'd try to meet him at the Digital Railroad party, which I had thought was on Tuesday. Gilles said he wished he could come with me; but being the center of the party was committed to staying. I said my goodbyes and braved the hallway of smoke. I was surprised to see Pia with a cigarette in hand. She had told me she was going to quit. "Yeah, I know," she said. She leaned in to kiss me goodbye. I pulled back and joked that I didn't kiss women who smoked. "Does this mean you're not going to IM me anymore?" I said I'd have to think about it.
December 9, 2005
Great big gigantic Flash Gordon flakes!
December 8, 2005
Patti Smith @ BAM
Last week I joined Catherine and her friend at BAM. She had bought tickets to the Patti Smith concert. It was presented as a play, with a first act and a second act. The first act consisted of her playing Horses
in its entirety; the second was just a second set of other songs. As part of her all-star band, Flea played bass, and Tom Verlaine of Television was on guitar.
When we arrived at the theater, Catherine handed us our tickets. I looked at mine. It was a receipt. Catherine dug into her bag but couldn't find the other ticket. We went to the box office where they hand-wrote a replacement. While we were waiting, Catherine's friend leaned in and whispered, "That's Michael Stipe." I turned around and he was just picking up his ticket.
The first half of the concert was fantastic. Smith's voice was incredibly strong, and the band breathed new life into the album. It was amazing to hear how influential (and how influenced) the music was. Midway through, she paused. "Side two," she said before launching into the almost bubblegum pop opening of "Kimberly."
After the first half, I told Catherine I wished the concert was over. Hearing Horses
live was transporting. Smith was incredibly energetic, and the music washed over the crowd. The second half could never compare.
And it didn't. The second half was pleasant, but I was still reeling from the first half. The band played well, the songs were fine, but it lacked the sense of historical importance. At the end of the concert, she brought a young child onto the stage from the audience and gave him her guitar. The boy played wildly for a while then stopped and looked back towards Patti for encouragement or for approval. She danced around as the rest of her band kept playing. The boy looked thrilled and lost, uncertain of whether he was in the right place or whether he was doing the right thing. Smith soon saved him, taking back her guitar for the finale.
Catherine emailed me after I had returned home. In cleaning out her purse she found the lost ticket.
December 3, 2005
Top of the world, ma!
My mother wanted to see the tree. I asked her what she wanted to do. She said she wanted to go to Rockefeller Center to see the tree.
We had dinner in Chinatown and then took the train up to 49th street. We passed by Radio City Music Hall, with its throngs of people milling about outside. Some were lined up to see the Rockettes, some had just seen them.
As we passed by the GE Building en route to the tree, people were advertising the Top of the Rock. First opened in 1933, the observation deck had recently reopened after twenty years. Guilemette had gone for a press preview and said the views were stunning. Last night it was cold, but crystal clear, and so we bought tickets and took the elevator to the 67th floor.
As the elevator rose, lights revealed the transparent ceiling. We could see the shaft as we climbed while videos were projected onto the plexiglass. Once at the top we took an escalator outside to the 69th floor. Clear glass allowed panoramic views to the north. Central Park loomed like a dark lake in the center of upper Manhattan. As we walked to the south side of the building, we walked through a small room where colored lights embedded in the ceiling followed our progress. Once on the southern terrace, the Empire State Building loomed over lower Manhattan.
A set of stairs lead to the 70th floor. Gone was the glass, and the wind blew fiercely across the observation deck. From there, you could look in both directions, all of Manhattan stretched out in lights. The views were breathtaking, made all the better by the incredibly clear night. Looking down we could see the snowflakes on Saks Fifth Avenue, but couldn't quite get the right angle to look straight down at the tree.
After a few minutes, chilled to the bone, we retired to the gift shop. The heat was blasting. The few people who had collected on the roof all passed through to warm up. After a few minutes, we took another quick turn around the lower deck and descended to see the tree.