Friday, July 13, 2012

Chicago is the World » The Teahouse

Reprising one of my favorite essays about spending a day with an amazing and cool artist at his pond and thinking about diaspora. wish i had taken more time to appreciate the connection we had that summer instead of rushing off to work...
Spent the morning with Linus Chao, renowned international artist and official “Living Legend of Hawaii,” at his home halfway up the volcano. My daughter Mango is taking art classes with him and his wife this summer. Four hours of Chinese art in the morning with Mrs. Chao, a little lunch, then four hours of western art in the afternoon with Professor Chao. All Mango needs, Professor Chao says, is a little formal instruction, and she will be on her way. The Chaos must be in their 80s. He is Shandong, she is Dongbei, their voices full of the old accents that I love. He is so warmly effusive, shows me everything, never lets me leave. I cannot believe my luck, and I want to soak in every word.
Today he shows me his teahouse. Funny, I have walked around it many times and never noticed it — from the outside, it seems a plain brown house. However, when you walk in through the two Chinese doors with the brass lion knockers, you walk into another world. The room is spacious and sparse, with rich red carpeting, natural wood walls, a low Chinese table, Chinese art on the walls, in front of you all windows overlooking the pond. It has the feel of an old Chinese scholar’s house, except with wall-to-wall carpeting.

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