H.M., Hisayo, and their two daughters lived in a little ramshackle bouse on the top of a hill in upstate New York. They’d gone through a lot of changes since H.M. had organised my exhibition in Japan three years before when I’d stayed in their lovely, traditional bouse in Yokohama.

This evening they had planned an extraordinary dinner for me to meet the gallery owner who had held our exhibition in Toronto. A leg of venison was in the oven, a bottle of 1988 Medoc was uncorked, to be followed by a 1982 Puillac and a 1980 Sirrah from California, which were breathing, almost audibly, on the buffet.

As we were seated the wind began to pick up. The blinds shook, and the windows rattled in their casings. There were tornado warnings out. H.M. had a little transistor radio , the kind we used to take to Coney Island and that I heven’t seen since the sixties. By the main course we turned it on. There were, in fact, several tornados whirling about the area. We ate our sumptuous meal and drank our fine vines while we listened nervously to the course of the storms. In between the crackling old Elvis songs, the announcer traced the path and speed of each one – toward which towns it was headed and how fast it was moving. The news was clear: at least one was headed directly toward us.

The gallerist and her husband had two young boys with them, so there were four children at the table. The bouse began to shake with violently. Fear was starting to mount in each one of us at different rates, yet there was a strong desire to finish the meal. The radio told us to go into the cellar. It became an unstated contest to see who would be the first to leave the table and who would be the last to remain, pleasure dominating fear and risk. We started the second bottle of wine and finished the main course. The shutters and blinds were making so much noise that it became difficult to hear the radio. The women rose from the table to take the children down,. We lingered a little longer over our venison and even more tasty game of « chicken » and then finally took our wine glasses, the cheese (H.M. had lived in France for many years before moving to Japan), and the radio to safety.

The basement, which was also used as a wine cellar, was made of dirt that slanted down from all sides towards a rough central pillar of concrete which held up the bouse. We crouched along the side, thinking that, if it were to be our last moment on earth, at least we had great wine and a hearty cheese to take us out.

It was raining as well and the basement started to fill slowly with water. The children began to wimper. We waited several hours. There was enough aged wine to last several weeks. Finally it was time for someone to go upstairs and see…There was a clear possibility that the bouse in which we’d begun a convivial dinner might no longer be there. We cracked open the door.. The wind had died down but the barometer was still very love and it felt strange to walk around the recently abandoned bouse. the empty plates and platters still on the table. It was over.