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Category Archives: short stories
Next to me is Mari Goround, probably the only Asian in the audience. We’re in the balcony, the “cheap seats” that cost us a hundred and six bucks. We wish we’d bought drinks. And eaten. Below us are couples and groups of middle-aged Caucasians. Some pink hair, some green hair, some went-to-my-stylist-this afternoon-hair, grey hair, no hair. To my right, a guy in a tee shirt that says: I can’t keep calm. I’m from Toledo.
Soon, Grosse Pointe Blank will start. Afterwards, John Cusack, the movie's star and producer, will answer questions. We're hoping John will autograph a book called Ernie Banks, Home Run Slugger. It was the only Chicago Cubs book we could find. Only yesterday did we learn that John would be here.
My hands are still pale red; I just checked the backstage door again, hoping John would be there, and in a good mood. A long shot, I know. All I saw was
the Ohio Turnpike and an empty, long white bus in a parking lot full of nothing but dirty snow and black ice. The wind was freezing.
With that autographed book, Mari hopes to crowdfund a film about Yosh Kawano. Yosh took care of the Chicago Cubs for six decades.
Inside the Ernie Banks book is an envelope containing a paper describing Mari’s documentary idea. Four images on the paper: Yosh’s famous white fishing hat, now in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Then, a baseball card of the 1958 Cubs, with a yellow circle around Yosh. Next, Yosh’s smiling face in front of the American flag-- his obituary photo. The last photo: the Manzanar internment camp. Yosh was one of the over 100,000 Americans interned during World War II. Anyone 1/16th Japanese or more was given six days to pack and get on a train, with no destination given. Yosh was released early so he go fight in New Guinea and the Philippines. He won combat medals.
Grosse Point Blank ends and John, seated and wearing a black baseball cap, is answering questions. He’s talked about music, about politics, about the movie business. “They were open to ideas then... Like, we could talk about Dan Akroyd’s character wearing a woman’s Kabuki costume. Wild things like that. Now, committees plan everything. They film different endings and take surveys to decide who gets a happy ending or dies or falls in love or whatever. It’s discouraging. Great art can't be predicted.”
Next, a woman approaches one of the mikes and suggests to John that he should marry her daughter. Then he’s asked about his most challenging role. “Max,” he answers. An attractive woman asks John if he’d like to meet her and her friends afterwards, in a karaoke bar. The moderator moves things on, points to a man at the mike on the other side of the room.
"John, what about the World Series? I'm a Cleveland fan ".
Even from here we see John’s eyes flash. “Biblical! Grampa Rossy got hit in the face with a ball, comes back with a solo homer! Seventeen minute rain delay before the tenth... it was like Moby Dick!” John starts describing the wild ups and downs of the " most greatest world series ever.” A baseball has 108 stitches. Last time the Cubs won the series was 108 years ago. Coincidence? I think not.”
Mari looks at me. Soon, we will sneak her into one of the lines of people who paid a hundred and twenty five dollars to be photographed next to John. I will then go outside, by the backstage door, and wait.
Hi , I am Stephen Black and I'd like to thank you for reading this.
First, Mari Goround is a fictional character. The idea of crowdfunding a movie about Yosh Kawano is a good one, but I do not know of anyone doing that. I would be happy to develop the ideas above into a script. For now, I am hoping to write more, as well as develop my ideas about AR software and Augmented Reality movies. I'm also planning to be in Austin for the SXSW festival next month. If you can help keep the balls in the air, or just want to wear an attractive, unusual (and comfortable) tee shirt, click here. THANK YOU!
PS. The story above is was extracted from a longer version, half of which is posted here.
PSS I just discovered Ansel Adams photographed a baseball game at Manzanar! I do not know if Yosh was at Manzanar; I read a newspaper article that a family from Washington State was sent there. As Yosh was born in Washington, perhaps he was sent on a train down there also.
If you know the name of the pilots, or anyone else, please let me know via the comments section.
For commercial uses of these photos, please contact me so I can discuss with the those in the photo. Yes, non-commercial use is free, but please credit Stephen Black, and let me know your link so I can share it....and do feel free to buy Alphabet Spikes, one of my ebooks. Alphabet Spikes has a couple of short stories in it, stories about DRONES!
For many of the photos I have RAW files, which means I can improve the quality somewhat, in case you want prints or something. The link to the first set of photos is here.
I’m multi-tasking; this short piece of writing hops across topics like Southeast Asian cuisine, Bubiko Foodtour, self-promotion, AR, VR, branding, racism, philosophy, and the meaning of life. In short: I’m rambling.
We get out of a Grab car in front of a McDonald’s. A young Malay is standing and eating soft ice cream. We ask where the police station is. He doesn’t know, but asks an elderly Chinese, who does. Both men are friendly. We quickly set off down the covered sidewalk. Our destination is the cart of a vendor who sells kidney bean soup and almond paste. The internet says he is near the police station and he sells out by 5, sometimes earlier. It’s now 4:30.
VRLab! I didn’t know there was one here. This morning I had exchanged emails regarding an interview with Dato Jack, VR Lab’s founder. From outside, I can see two women signing in. I enter, explain my connection with Dato Jack, and am allowed to watch. After a thorough explanation and simple instructions, the two women put on headsets. First, they move their heads in all directions, then they slowly manipulate their hands and arms, acquiring the skills to become virtual archers. I study all this because I am writing a book about VR and haptics, as well as planning an AR startup that will eventually expand to VR.
The TV screens in the room show me what they are seeing: a castle under siege. Suddenly, an axe-thrower attacks so suddenly that the woman with braids jumps. Her headset falls off. I leave after a few minutes, by which time they are fully immersed: crouching, cautiously turning and laughing. They are killing people with arrows.
We rush back outside. The sky is soft and complex: rain clouds/blue sky/sunlight/evening. The atmosphere is fresh and I’m glad to have a camera. We find the soup vendor. He’s surrounded by people, all of whom seem to have placed large orders to bring back home. Nearby is a truck stall selling assam laksa. The aroma is uniquely seductive, like a tart, mysterious fruit beckoning from a bed of homemade noodles.
We are soon seated at a rickety table, experiencing multiple foodgasms from the assam laksa, the kidney bean soup, the almond paste and a plate of perfectly fried kway teow that we couldn’t resist. We finish and head into the U-shaped market. In an hour it will be packed.
Ears of sweet corn! I can honestly say I am a farmboy from Ohio, with many memories of corn fields and corn roasts. However, the corn I picked and the cows I milked were actually in Michigan. (OK, full disclosure, about the cows: There was only one. I was a five-year-old visiting a farm with my family. And, yeah... I was too shy to squeeze anything.)
A sign for Pun Tofu! Word play that is not wordplay. I write, often about food. Eight books. One, i ate tiong bahru, is a national bestseller in Singapore. Stories about my IT/VR/AR adventures in Hong Kong and Singapore will soon be a series on Popularium. This trip to the market is research for the text part of Bubiko Foodtour, an AR project. A stall sells kuehs and this is good: I heart kuehs.
The sky is peacefully exploding. Sharply outlined clouds, bulging with water vapor, dissolve into darkening, ragged zones of blue and orange. More generators are started. The lights of the night market come on as the moon rises in a kaleidoscopic sea of twilight. We eat black tofu. This same stall had intrigued us at another market, but we hadn’t tried it. We watch it being made and find a table. Surprisingly, the chicken soup served with it has the taste of green tea. The news of the day encroaches unexpectedly: skin color and Charlottesville.
I remember an article I found while doing research. In a city in Malaysia, over an unspecified period, the police took action on illegal street vendors. The breakdown: 158 actions against Chinese-based businesses, 103 against Malay businesses, 31 against Indians and 13 on other races. The harmonious flavors in the black tofu soup are wonderful , but not enough to take me away from thoughts about Nazis, Communists and the White House.
We step into the crowd one last time, studying foods like nasi lemak, Vietnamese pizza and salt-baked chicken. Five blind Chinese, all elderly, sit on red plastic chairs and sing Chinese songs. A man plays acoustic guitar, a woman taps a tambourine. There is a bowl at the woman’s feet. We listen as we watch Murtabak Sam make pandan pancakes with bamboo charcoal flour. We call a Grab and wait.
Now, here on Medium, are some of my experiences, my reality at that market. As I wrote this I remembered scenes, recalled what I was thinking and added new thoughts. I input my data into the internet, and now it is all over the world.
…one kind of wonder after another kind of wonder, all in something wondrous...
ANYONE CAN CONTRIBUTE TO THIS PROJECT. But yeah, you probably had to be there: LES in the 80s.
I have videos of No Se No performances and Toyo talking about life in the Lower East Side. (Thank you, Cowboy) If anyone has ideas on how to transfer Beta (Beta, not Betacam) tapes into today's technology, please get in touch. Thank you.
I started this to bring attention to Toyo's photographic work and to see what would happen. Yes, I can write, but maybe I don't need to write anything. There is already one book about the Rivington School. Probably other people have more interesting things to say. Toyo's own memories and stories are treasures. I entered into this thinking that if I did write, I'd write about Toyo's images in a very impersonal manner, to counterbalance his intimacy. Topics like dates and short biographies, how Toyo constructs images, the challenges of film. Then, out of the blue... He sent some picture of me.
OK... Let's get something out of the way. This series of blog posts is not about me. The first three introduce Toyo and myself, but after that... who knows? I graduated from RIT with a BFA in Photographic Illustration, with a minor in Film and Video. I graduated early, in March 1983. I was having a party and I told a teacher about it. He said where you going? I said New York City. He said what are you going to do and I said I don't know. He showed me a fax. Call them. If you work there, you get access to equipment. That's what it's all about. That was on a Friday. They wanted me to come in on Monday. I arrived in Brooklyn, sat by the river with my good friend Pat and wondered about the Manhattan skyline. We were waiting for another good friend, Ben to show up. We were going to stay at his loft.
The next morning Ben's girlfriend took us on the subway to Rivington Street. It was cold but there was a street market in the park we had to cut across. I imagined fruits and vegetables, maybe cooked chicken or something. We got closer, we were in the middle of it. The ground was completely blue, covered with empty syringe wrappers. Heroin. My interview was just on the other side. We walked through, I went up the stairs, started work the next day. That place was called Young Filmakers/Video Arts. The address was 4 Rivington. Later I moved right around the corner, onto the Bowery.
No Se No was at 32 Rivington Street. I left for a two week stay in Japan in October, 1984. The energy of what I experienced--and so much more, bursts out of every image Toyo has created. I am writing this from Kuala Lumpur, on July 18, 2017. I am seeing some of these pictures of myself... for the first time.
Toyo Project 2 is here.