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August 27, 2003

Thank you, Uncle

You can tell a fair bit about the inner life of the filmmaker by watching his unedited work. The gender-specific pronoun here is used advisedly: I'm thinking of a particular man. I spent some time this weekend watching a mess of his archival footage, Yosemite Valley and Camp Curry in 1957, the upper deck of the Bay Bridge open to two-way traffic, Tahoe's Emerald Bay before the development explosion at South Lake.

The shooter was easily distracted. He'd be filming his three-year-old daughter, who was posing sweetly and unselfconsciously in a pretty dress and sun hat. And then a glint of color behind her would catch his eye: the next several yards of film would center on the bee collecting pollen from a clump of California poppies. His young son would cast a line into the water, and the screen would fill with sun glint and ripple. He was acutely conscious of his surroundings, pulling beauty from the mundane juxtapositions of life in California.

We buried Robert Hong Chee Jung on Saturday. His family - into which I had the good sense to marry - mourns him. My wife spent the weekend remembering her uncle smiling, driving the road between South Lake and Emerald Bay, his belly full of prime rib, camera loaded and ready to grab at a moment's notice.

I can't help but hope that's what he's doing now.

We spent Friday and Saturday distracted by the details of ritual, red lai si envelopes, white envelopes holding candy to be eaten immediately and not brought home (lest bad fortune come along), colored yarn affixed to the hair of female mourners.

Sunday we spent at his home across San Pablo Bay, sitting with his grandson Yohji on his dock, watching ducks swim past. My in-laws' default behavior in any social situation: eat. My mother-in-law made an incredible pile of food… rice with lop cheung sausage and dried scallops, pasta salad and spareribs and then there was Becky's corn on the cob and the dim sum brought by Auntie Linda - siu mai and scallop won ton and cha siu bao. Just as we finished, Robert's son Richard arrived from the Sierra foothills with apple pies. Not long after, watching home movies and groaning that there was no way any of us could possibly eat another bite, we all went out to dinner, and cleared the restaurant with our uproarious conversation, half the decibel level of which came from Yohji, six-year-old son of Angie, the beautiful three-year-old girl in the home movies.

And I kept thinking of how, as Robert was being lowered into the sandy soil of Colma, my attention was fixed on a pair of dragonflies darting back and forth among his assembled dearly beloved. Above our heads, one after another, planes rose from San Francisco International, loaded with souls departing for destinations we could not fathom.

Posted by Chris Clarke at August 27, 2003 12:29 PM TrackBack URL for this entry:
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Comments

Please accept my condolences for your loss. I have enjoyed your work on the blog tremendously--place is wonderful!--but once you fill it with the people you love, it becomes yet another kind of writing.

Thanks,

AP

Posted by: AP at August 27, 2003 09:47 PM
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