Vienna Teng at Eric's

I spent Saturday morning with Eric, Rita, Amabelle, Dardy, and Bill over at Koi Palace, where we gorged on dim sum and took pictures like a pack of tourists. Afterwards, I went to fix my glasses and check out DV equipment in Palo Alto before returning home. I left my house a little after 5:00 pm, after having furiously worked on two photojournals. I first drove over to Dardy’s place in Palo Alto. Stuffing my face with brownies from his housewarming party the other night, I picked Mr. Choccobo up and drove over to Stanford campus, where we met up with Domi Le, a musical acquaintance of Eric’s who was coming to the recital.

It’s hard to believe that over four years have passed since I went to Stanford. Every year, there are subtle changes to the campus that leaves me scratching my head thinking, “Was that there when I was a student?” or, “Man, I wish we had that when I was at Stanford!” For instance, this past year, the Post Office underwent a complete overhaul; they rebuilt the building so that all of the mailboxes where indoors as opposed to outdoors when Dardy and I were students. I can’t recall how many times during Winter Quarter we cursed the elemental gods when we and our mail would get wet from the driving rain!

After picking up Domi, we began our ascent up Highway 280 to San Francisco. Dardy was in better form than he was in the morning when he drove us to Koi Palace. I guess the 4 hours of sleep he got after returning from breakfast sobered him up! We talked about Domi’s recent trip to Italy, travelling ’round the world, and a little bit about Vienna, whom both Dardy and Domi had never met in person.

The Recital

We arrived at Eric’s place a little early, around 6:30 pm. The recital was scheduled to begin at 7:00 pm, so we spent the extra time mingling with Vienna, Eric, Eric (the other Eric), Elliot, and Mandy. Mandy, incidentally, had just returned from Italy herself the day before, and she and Domi swapped their Italian travel stories. I noticed a few new pieces of jewelry adorning Mandy and Elliot’s hands, no doubt the results of Mandy’s excellent metal work. I’d like to commission her to make me a new ring one of these days. I’ve always wanted to update the silver ring that I wear, as well as have a ring that looks like a Green Lantern ring. That’ll be cool!

Eric has a fine 1911 Steinway Model A2 parlor grand piano. According to Eric, there are many kinds of grand pianos, from baby to parlor to concert grands. At first, I wasn’t sure which it was, though I didn’t think that it was a baby nor a concert (too small and too big). Domi quickly confirmed our suspicions that the piano was a parlor grand. Vienna looked right at home on the Steinway, practicing while the guests began filing into the apartment.

According to Eric, about 40 people came to Vienna’s recital. There weren’t quite enough chairs to accomodate everybody, but it served to make the event seem much more intimate. People huddled on the ground, in the kitchen, and up in the loft area. Eric’s place is really nice in creating a warm and inviting atmosphere, very conducive to these types of events! Hiro and Ra, Eric’s famous Bengal Cats, roved around the entire house throughout the night, playing with the guests and surveying their land. Fortunately, they didn’t jump up onto Vienna’s lap or the piano during her recital!

And, what a recital it was! Vienna played all of the songs from her debut Waking Hour album, along with 5-7 songs that she’s been working on. In between songs, she related stories about how they were created, which provided additional insight beyond what one could gather from the lyrics. It was touching to hear her explain how Say Uncle was written after one of her uncles passed away. Pacing around the house, she composed the bulk of the song in 30 minutes. Amazing. Absolutely amazing.

There were certainly more people here at Vienna’s recital at Eric’s than there were at her Release Party at the French House a few months back. Her fan base is certainly growing, as more and more people are introduced to this ultra-talented musician. Dardy was telling me that Dishi and other Taiko folk went to see her play at the Red Rock Coffee Company in Mountain View on Friday, the night of Dardy’s housewarming party. The big sign that she’s hit prime-time will be when she’s on a radio station like Alice 93.7. In my opinion, it’s just a matter of time!

Vienna was saying at the end of the night how she doesn’t have sheet music for her songs. They’re all stored in her mind. She has the major notes with her at all times, but varies some of the other portions of the song as she fancies. I’ve been listening to her music for quite some time now, so it’s fun to see when she deviates from the way the song was recorded on the CD. Her renditions of Unwritten Letter #1 and Enough To Go By are good examples of how the live performance differs from the studio release.


The usual crowd was present at Eric’s Saturday night, though there were a few new people that I hadn’t met before. A contigent from Eric’s high school in San Diego was there. It’s interesting to meet people that went to high school with Eric. We both knew each other, but I never really met any of his friends from Torrey Pines, other than Oliver Miao.

Other people who were there include the aforementioned Elliot and Mandy, the E.Piphany crowd, the Stanford contingent, and the music group. Dardy amply represented the online journalists, and he even ran into some of his former friends from Stanford.

The cross-section of people was very different from that of, Amabelle or Rita’s group. I definitely feel more at home with this crowd than I do with Amabelle’s gang. It’s probably due to the fact that I don’t know her friends as well as I do Eric’s friends, having been through school with most of them. There are certainly more things in common, such as Stanford, San Diego, and Silicon Valley. Many of Amabelle’s friends are Asian. While there’s certainly that “Asian brothers and sisters” action going on, it’s not stronger than the Stanford brotherhood yet.

Back in San Diego, I went to a school that was predominantly white. I wasn’t shocked, but I was surprised to see sooo many Asians when I started Stanford. Back then, Asians comprised 24% of the student population. Today, I think that the number is closer to 30%. Compare that to my high school, where there were about 6-7 Asians in my graduating class of some 70 students. On the flip side, Rita went to the same high school as my cousin, King. Lowell is somewhere on the order of 90% Asian. Talk about a social and cultural majority!

All that being said, neither group is better than the other, but it’s just interesting to note the differences, and similarities, between the two. I learned during my sophomore year at Stanford that I had no niche and that in of itself was my niche. I got along quite well with various social groups. That was, I realized, a skill of mine, to blend in wherever I went. It’s an extremely useful skill that I think people should all learn!

One of the people that I met at the recital was Michael Rogers. When I introduced myself, he said, “You’re Adam Tow! I know you from your Newton work!” He went on to describe how he knew me from my Newton days, especially during the Apple Protest on March 6, 1998 (a subject for a future photojournal, no doubt). It was nice to see that people remembered that event; today was definitely a day where I met people who knew me from my web site, as opposed to Stanford or San Diego.


Vienna’s recital was an excellent way to end the evening and a day of exciting lunch and chance encounters up along the Peninsula. Al and Owen were telling me at Koi Palace that my life is like a real-life storybook, with real people and real events. I’m honored to have those words said about the content that I publish. The people that I meet are the real heroes and heroines of my site; they are what make life interesting and fun!

By the way, if you haven’t purchased Vienna’s CD, stop reading this photojournal, crack out your credit card, and buy it now! Vienna won’t let you down!

Production notes

This web site is the first in a new series of photojournals styles that I’m experimenting with. In writing all of this content, there is a lot of manual labor involved. With the power of scripting languages like PHP, however, I’ve to automate much of the production work with this photojournal. The end result is you’ll be seeing more stuff faster from me hopefully!

Additional Links

Here are some additional links to coverage from Vienna’s recital.

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