Mike Fink wrote: “i met billy ming-sing in 1951, our freshman year at yale, class of 1955. i invited him home to providence, r.i. that first thanksgiving. he came, brought charming gifts (a box of chinese tea and a lounge robe. which i wore and kept and then gave away to a lovely girl who said no to me and turned into a vanished dream. many decades later at a reunion i asked billy what he could recall of that event and he said “nothing” but then proceeded to join me in a loyal bond with the very idea of yale nostalgia. and now, we are the bookends, the pillars, of our vanishing class roster. we are survivors and somehow beyond friendship it has become a symbolic and “existential” (i use that word loosely, perhaps privately, maybe as the poetic credo of our generation, in some way) bond. i have many chinese students at the r.i. school of design, and i have a special good will toward them and keep in touch long, long after their commencements as their alum status transforms into a wine of good will and even a kind of intimacy. currently i have an alum and former t.a. named yifan du in china who told me i inspired him to try to teach as i do. i know profoundly my own failures and inadequacies, but his faith in me stands for the way friendship works. brings out the best along with the small and humble virtues of gratitude, respect, good will, and provides a needed comfort in these times of distancing and doubting. anyway, if this does manage to reach you, thank you so very much, billy, for staying with me !
i am currently the longest serving faculty member in the history of RISD (Rhode Island School of Design ) i came as an instructor in 1957 and have not quite yet retired, although i believe that by the time my present elective classes will reach semester end in may, my final accounting will be to gather up my souvenirs, books, and assorted paintings and framed sketches from my marvelous office salon and find someplace to pile them up. then what? shall i live out my allotment of years among the crates and shelves and with my wife’s impatience with the heap of histories,…or will the gods figure out something surprising for me? dunno. my only travels to china were by way of hong kong, where i spent a sabbatical semester, or part of it, offering to the baptist college there how to gather the best dvd movies from the hollywood of my/our generation, featuring portraits of china. oil for the lamps of china. the bitter tea of general yen. (frank capra film with barbara stanwyck and nils asther (i think) ) and a number of others…..hoped to make it to the jewish town of kaifeng to “research” the connection between the silk road communities of a lost tribe of israel and now the visits of students to reconnect these chapters. hey i didn”t mean to go on and on, once you reach a certain age you tend to over-answer simple questions, so i’ll stop here for now i have taught bird watching, documentary film-making, and “journalism”–for six decades and more.
forgot to include the flick “the painted veil” with greta garbo and herbert marshall and george brent. taken from a somerset maugham story among the dvd choices i asked the hong kong baptist college to add to their new collection of hollywood’s evolution, politically, toward china. in the dramatic years of the 1930s into the 1940s. oh i could go on and on about that, but i will spare you for now. i did visit the hotel in hong kong where somerset maugham kept his social set lively …”