SoHo Memory Profile: Yukie

Mimi and Yukie in SoHo, ca. 1976

I realize that it must seem a bit strange that I am doing a profile of myself, since this entire blog is kind of a profile of me, in bits and pieces.  But I thought I’d end the year by looping back to my first post, on January 1, 2011 where I wrote that “[w]hat I would like to do, . . ., is to celebrate a very special place at a very special moment in time.”

Eidolon, the Brooklyn Boutique I co-owned from 1999-2009

I am a product of SoHo in the 1970s.  A very special place at a very special moment in time.  My experiences growing up here have made me who I am today, for better or worse.  Since graduating from college, I have been a grants administrator, an editor, a literary translator, a handbag designer, a boutique owner, a collage artist, an archivist, a librarian, and a writer. I have also gone to graduate school twice, once in my twenties and once in my forties.  I guess I’m one of those people who is pretty good at a lot of things but not super-proficient at any or one.  Another way to look at it is that I have a spectrum of interests that I pursue avidly, more for experiencing the process than obtaining the result.  I enjoy the ride and hopefully pick up some knowledge and skill along the way.

Two of the handbags I made for my Brooklyn store

Stereotypical parents would have plotzed long ago from the agony of seeing such a flighty and fickle daughter make her way through the world.  But my parents once said to me, after I told them that my store was about to celebrate its tenth anniversary, “You’ve had that place for ten years?  It’s about time you thought of something else to do!”  Variety is the spice of life, and it is not shameful, rather, it is your birthright, to move from one passion to the next, and nobody will think the less of you if you did not go to law school or marry a doctor.

This was the spirit of the SoHo that nurtured me into adulthood.  This is not to say that everyone around me changed their professions every ten minutes.  Some did, some didn’t.  However, it seemed to me that everyone was here because they needed a place to like what they like and be who they are without others bugging them about it.  Many of my friends’ parents were artists, like my father, who found a community of  like-minded souls south of Houston Street, and their children, my peers, were able to benefit from their having been brought here, or born here.

A Rainbow in the Desert, a volume of my translations of Japanese litarature

I have often thanked my lucky stars that I was not born in rural Japan.  It could have happened, and I’m sure that I would have loved my home and my community and the opportunities they afforded me.  But what a different existence it would have been!  My mother ventured out from her home in the mountains where the kitchen had a dirt floor, the house was filled with the smell of the pigsty just outside, and the toilet was a hole in the ground where a truck came to vacuum out its contents once a month or so.  She left and followed my artist-father to New York, moving to a place where the conditions were not much better or different!  A loft space with no rooms and a coal burning stove for heat where she could not wash the windows for fear that someone would notice that they were living there illegally. Odd neighbors who would come and go at odd times in odd getups whose houses smelled odd, like an angry skunk was living in the bathroom.  Filthy streets with piles of “garbage” from which they pulled their home furnishings.

These beginnings made it possible for me to be the kind of person who goes with the flow and can be flexible, not to mention the kind of person who can withstand cold weather, having passed many winters being able to see my breath in bed.  I am not perturbed by the sight of vermin, as I have had cockroaches living in my house with whom I was on a first-name basis.  I treat everyone with the same level of familiarity and respect because growing up, SoHo was a motley community of people with such a wide variety of past experiences and future plans, none of whom had any money, so there was not an obvious hierarchy to warrant using the honorific with one person and the familiar with another.  So everyone used the familiar, by default.

Untitled (2007), one of my mixed-media collages

But those of you who have followed this blog from the beginning know all of this.  These are the tropes to which I have returned again and again throughout this past year.  I thank you for indulging me my navel gazing and I thank you for your participation and sharing.  Going into the next year, in order to fill out this narrative, I would like The SoHo Memory Project to become more and more about memories other than my own and less and less about what I remember, although I acknowledge that the line between the two is elusive, as many of us have shared the same experiences.

Memory is also elusive,  at best an unreliable friend on whom we must rely when there is nobody else to lean on.  Our story will never all come into crystal-clear focus, but what I am hoping for, if not clarity, is to give shape to amorphousness and ambiguity.  I don’t know or care if growing up in SoHo was better or more fun than growing up anywhere else, but the discussions of the past year have begun to clarify what was so special, so singular, about the experience, value judgements aside.

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8 Responses to “SoHo Memory Profile: Yukie”

  1. Nancy Gabor Says:

    Hi Yuki,
    I love this blog and this entry in particular. You bring those days back vividly. Your blogs also remind me of things which I’ve forgotten, but pop up once again by sharing the images you create.

    Happy Holidays to you and your family.


  2. nancyeder Says:

    Like the person (Nancy) above, I especially enjoyed your last entry. And, Yuki, like yourself, i share a love of the process of making art maybe even more than the end result.

    I hope that you keep up with your writing if for no other reason than the pleasure it affords those of us of your parents’ generation who enjoy hearing about Soho before it was “SOHO.”


  3. Freddie Says:

    I found you’re blog a couple of weeks ago & have been reading all of the posts & comments from this past year hoping to find memories of the old NY (SOHO) you so well write about, I enjoy you’re writing skills as it paints a NY of that time I so well remember. Growing up on 280 Mott off Houston, I remember the way things use to be, I’m one of those who still wishes it was the way it was as I miss the real neighborhood feel it had & the community it really was.

    Yes the conditions where no where near what it is today, but I miss the old NY and I love reading about it here. Keep up the great work, this is the best blog!

    Great Pictures!!!

  4. Sheba Says:

    It’s been so wonderful to be apart of the SOHO Memory project this past year. I have really enjoyed reading the memories of others which often triggers more of my own. This blog is also responsible for getting me back in touch with a few very special people from my past. I look forward to adding more memories in the new year.

    Brightest of blessings to everyone in the new year!

  5. mark gabor Says:

    Yukie — You make me proud to be counted among the Soho parents of your generation. This blog sheds light on a time and process we ALL went through — not knowing that some day we’d look back
    and be able to say “wow!” — Mark Gabor

  6. Yukie Says:

    Hello Everyone! Thanks for writing in. It’s been so wonderful sharing memories with you all about the old days and thinking about about how we carry these memories into our new days. Looking forward to hearing from you in 2012!

  7. Bowery Boy Says:

    Thanks for every post and Happy New Year.

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