Saturday, February 12, 2011

On serendipity

After boot camp this morning at Chelsea Piers, I had a delicious coffee with Lauren at Chelsea Market and then headed to get the uptown train at 14th St. But it was all chaos and disarray there, with no information available other than that no 1, 2 or 3 trains were running uptown; if I didn't want to take the bus, I was informed by an unsurprisingly grumpy MTA employee, I had better walk over to 8th Avenue for the uptown C.

(Reading the paper later, I realized it was because of this; the only information available at the time was that there had been some sort of police action in Times Square.)

A very elegant middle-aged lady, an out-of-town visitor, was asking for directions, and I invited her to follow along with me as we were going more or less the same way (in fact it turned out she was going to Barnard, so it was really exactly the same sort of thing).

We fell into conversation and it turned into one of those truly lovely interactions with a stranger, where you can't believe quite how much it is like talking to someone you know very well already: she had done a master's degree in English at UCLA, she was a runner training for the Boston Marathon (something I have not yet qualified for, but which is one of my bucket list aspirations), etc.

It turned out that she had been in town for the Athena Film Festival to screen her documentary Out of Infamy: Michi Nishiura Weglyn. As we parted, she generously gave me a copy, and I have just watched it; it is a fascinating story, quite beautifully made, about the Japanese-American costume designer who left her job in order to write one of the first books exposing the true history of America's internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII.

In short, the day brought me something genuinely beautiful, important and altogether unexpected!

Here's a piece about the film at the Huffington Post, and I've embedded the trailer below. Some of the most lovely things glimpsed in the full-length version: the colored sketches Michi made as a biology student at Mount Holyoke and as a costume designer on the Perry Como Show.

Many thanks to Sharon Yamato for making my day so much richer than it otherwise would have been!


  1. That is quite a story altogether, but I am somewhat distracted by the crime spree component, which I had not heard of before and which is quite mind-boggling.

  2. What a lovely post. I am tempted to suggest "only in NY" - I find it hard to imagine such a thing in London (British reticence being only one reason why not).

    I did not check out your link to the Times but in view of Becca's comment, I am sorry to hear about that.

  3. Imagine my delight when I woke up to your post back in LA! Yes indeed, "only in NY." That our lovely and fortuitous meeting happened in the midst of a chaotic situation is a statement about the human spirit. It could only have happened, however, because of your generosity and my reliance on the "kindness of strangers." I am always so happy to share Michi with others, but even happier now that I can call you a friend.