Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas, again.

I landed in America on Christmas Day. (Was it Seattle or San Francisco?) It was 1995. And I had sat next to my father on an EVA plane. I watched "Santa Clause," the funny movie I wasn't allowed to see with my friends earlier that day. "There's no time," father had barked. "You could miss your flight. It's too risky." This was a tragedy, I was going to see it with a boy I had a massive crush on!

Eleven years later,  I would've spent half of my life in America, and my first Christmas alone. I'd watch "The Mummy" and "Mummy Returns" on USA Network, and a game with the L.A. Lakers at Miami on ABC. I'd read Albert Camus's "The First Man" and ponder what to have for dinner. I'd make instant noodles with two dropped eggs. But before that, I'd look to the clock and see that it was 4:20. I'd reflect on how much I've changed in the last 11 years, and how, at 22, I still have so much more to learn. I'd find that I've not much clue who I am or what I want to do, but I'd know that I would go into work the next day as usual. I'd miss my coworkers as I work the 9-hour-day in the half-emptied office and wish I, too, were on vacation. After that, I'd maybe get a haircut or just walk from 64th and 2nd to Columbus Circle and catch the express train home.

(I wish an express train home was that easy.)

I'd watched "The Mummy" in the movie theatres at Greenfield one afternoon in spring 1999 with Alex B and Cleo S. I'd screamed when the mummy crept up, not because I was scared but because Cleo creeped from behind and made me squeal. I'd lost contact with Cleo S from Caracas, Venezuela since he graduated a year ahead of me. One Saturday night, walking from the Student Center, we were around East Hall when it began drizzling. I asked him how to say "it's raining, but the sky is beautiful." One summer, I'd dreamed that Cleo was dead. When I woke up, I wrote him a letter telling him how relieved I was to have woken from the dream. He never saw that letter. Neither did he see the subsequent letters I wrote later that summer.

Though a search for him on Google warrants no results (that I can understand), I know he is somewhere and well. Merry Christmas, my friend, and a happy new year.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

A dancing man.

Sitting outside Bubbles, the laundromat between 119th and 120th, reading a pocket book on Degas and waiting for my clothes to dry, a man down the sidewalk was holding a phone against his ear and looking down at his feet as he lifted one foot and spun 360 degrees on the other. When he got closer, I heard music and realized he had not been talking on the phone. He had been listening to music as he practiced steps up and down the sidewalk and around the block. I looked away when he caught me staring. I looked down and pretended to read about Degas' ballet dancers.

When I looked up, he was still dancing.

Fifteen minutes later I was folding my fresh laundry when he walked by.

"Sorry I kept looking at you. It was really enjoyable watching you dance." I didn't get to tell him.

I looked again as I left the laundromat. He was using my dryer.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Finding Rona Jaffe at 14th + 6th.

A NYC woman who was known for her novels, screenplays, and her foundation that supports young female writers passed away in late 2005, left behind an apartment in Upper East Side, which her lawyer came and claimed. Perhaps feeling that her belongings were of no use to him, he threw them out or gave them away. At age 74, Ms. Rona Jaffe did not marry, bore no children, and had no surviving relatives (she was the only child).

A man walked by and discovered that among the books, letters and magazine articles Ms. Jaffe had authored, there was an extensive collection of drawings and illustrations R.jaffe - she signed - had made before she entered book publishing. She had been a regular art contributor to the student newspaper at Radcliffe College, where she attended from age 15 to 19, and kept a record of every piece of work she had published. She sketched often, practiced the figure, and developed eventually a style that is clean, crisp and extremely funny. Her subjects included planets, light bulbs, books, magic carpets, mailbox, the little objects in her everyday life from which she found pleasure. Some were narrative. Almost all were done in black ink. The drawings were small, concise, fun and extremely delightful to view.

This man holds currently the largest collection of art works by Ms. Rona Jaffe. I gladly bought a print for $20.

- What are the limitations and freedom to selling such work, acquired by a total stranger (with the consent of the lawyer) after the person's death?
- Who buys such drawings, that were done by a writer?
- How much is this worth?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Love note to my sculpture studio.

Tonight is the empty kind of night. It's cold. The cement is wet. Even the wind feels wet. Is that a minivan approaching or is that the wind?

This studio was where I spent countless afternoons, evenings, and late, late nights. There was country music. There was Spanish music. There were dust, buckets, stools and dusty desk rollers. There was wax, there was clay, there was plaster. There were nude models, and Lifesavers on hot liquid bronze. There was never a ruler. Why was there never a ruler?

"Watch," Andrew the T.A. said, the first time he showed us welding. "It's kind of like magic."

Then there was that time. It was a few past midnight when we stood close and glued each other's pieces. We held them together and laughed. We teased. We ate. We worked and we didn't sleep. I loved your smell of the furnace, the crucible, the burning metal, the chipped wood. Then there was the time we smuggled wine into the gallery. It felt like forever. Yes, we were together for one whole year.

Good-bye, Pendleton 113. I will miss you.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Searching for Mickey(angelo).

After a Friday evening at the sculpture studio, C.D. took us, Leslie, an aspiring architect, Heidi, a thesis student, and I to dinner at a Shanghai restaurant in town. We sipped on tea while C.D. drank merlot. C.D. is famous for his presence - tall with broad shoulders, he takes long strides, taking his time in looking far - and near. He wears a grey gentleman's hat, a long green coat, and a brown leather bag on his left shoulder. He has been compared to Einstein for his white hair and moustache. Students who don't know him describe him as "the mysterious man who walks through Jewett Arts Center."

C.D. has spent the recent several decades carving stones and searching for Mickey. And when C.D. says Mickey, he really means Michelangelo. If you've been to Harvard Square, you might have noticed a piece of granite carved, "Newtowne Market", at the park by the Kennedy School of Government. The stone is one of his many public works scattered throughout the region. Others include pieces at the Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, New Jersey and the DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park in Lincoln, Massachusetts. His most recent is a 9-and-1/2-feet tall head of Lady Justice in front of the courthouse in Stamford, Connecticut.

"We are always looking for inspiration from great artists and hoping for their touch on our work," he said to us. "But there was only one time when the angels came down and helped me." He recalled when his work on Justice led to extreme frustration and uncertainty as to what and how he was to continue. "I couldn't've finished it without their help."

C.D. talked about his traveling days, including the time when he was 18 and sailed off from Argentina without a passport. He reminded us to have confidence in ourselves and our own work, and stressed the importance of the willingness and daringness to invest in ourselves, with money and with time. Many alums get into their top-choice graduate schools "because they are aggressive," he said. C.D. has been teaching at the College for 22 years.

We were the last to leave the restaurant. We hopped into C.D's SUV and went off to Blockbuster where we spent 30 minutes walking through every aisle. In the end, the four of us checked out five movies. Outside Blockbuster, C.D. took out from the plastic bag a DVD for himself and said to us, (almost giggling), "Here you go, here are your movies!" He dropped us off at our dorms each with our movie-for-the-night. I borrowed a TV from a friend down the hall and loaded the DVD player.

"Good Night. And Good Luck."

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

A man who wants to go to Taichung.


I am sitting by the curb waiting for my father to pick me up for dinner. My stomach growls. I look at my watch. It's 7:22pm. To my left there's a man walking down the sidewalk. Young, probably in his late thirties, he is seemingly normal: wearing a white shirt, a cap, and a pair of khakis. He stares at me as he walks past me. I notice that he is not carrying anything.


From the corner of my eyes I see him walking back towards me, staring at me. Finally, he stops in front of me.

Man: Excuse me. Is this Kuen-Yang Station?
I look to the giant "Kuen-Yang Station" sign behind him.
Man: How do I get to Taichung?
Is he playing with me?
Man: Can I take a train? Where's the train station?
Me: You can take MRT to Taipei Train Station.
He looks over to the MRT station behind me. Unsatisfied.
Man: Is there a bus I can take?
Man: I was told there's no bus that goes to Taichung.
Me: Right.
Man: Is there an airport? I want to take an airplane.

Man: So I should go to Taipei Train Station?
Me: That's the easiest way.
Man: Ok. Thank you.
He looks up and walks away. Several steps later, he turns around to face me again.
Man: Do you work around here?
Me: Yeah...
Man: What do you do?
Me: I'm a teacher.
Man: Teacher. Okay. Thank you.
Of all the professions in the world, I'm not sure why I said teacher.