Sunday, November 8, 2009

Alternate Universe

I guess this could have been me... my family immigrated from China Taiwan when I was eight years old.

Yale Daily News
Tony Chi places his cup of green tea on the aluminum grill and sprawls on a stool in the back of the restaurant. Adjusting his chef’s hat, he ties on his hachimaki, a traditional Japanese headband worn as a symbol of perseverance and hard work. He cranes his neck to scope out the two groups that just sat down at other hibachi grills. An elderly husband and wife sit at the first. Surrounding the second is a group of 30-something couples, the women flaunting blond highlights and low-cut dresses, the men gelled hair and starched sport shirts. Each of them orders a shot of whiskey or vodka.

Tony grins. “They’re going to get wild,” he whispers. “This table, it should be exciting.”

It is a rainy Saturday night in November 2008, and Tony is teaching me the art of scouting a hibachi party. Hibachi chefs like Tony don’t put on the same act for everybody. Rather, they size up the customers who sit before them and adjust their routines accordingly: families with doe-eyed children get balloon animals, older couples are treated to “sir” and “ma’am” flattery, and college kids drown in quarts of sake. Tony, who is 30 years old and has been cooking hibachi since before his voice dropped, prefers the third category. Long after those customers leave the restaurant, Tony remembers them. More importantly, they remember Tony.

At least people remember him. I don't think there's anything memorable about my work.


Anonymous said...

hey, i remember your work very well -- in fact, i have a copy of it saved around here somewhere (the last-minute wedding program you made for me and kim)

totochi said...

Ha ha, thanks. I meant engineering or finance... you know, stuff I paid good tuition to learn. That graphic design stuff was a hobby.