Monthly Archives: September 2005

CCT, Wine, and Other Things Non-Banking

one of the perks of being an editorial assistant at Columbia College Today, the official alumni magazine of Columbia College, for more than three years was the opportunity to attend the private wine tastings held by Ken Catandella, executive director of alumni affairs and development, whose responsibilities included overseeing the big-time events such as the yearly alumni reunion and homecoming. Ken, who is on the short side and has a mustache, is an eloquent speaker who loves to entertain audiences of all sizes with his knowledge of wines. as a connoisseur, he has traveled all over the world on his spare time to visit vineyards and to taste all sorts of grapes and vintages. he told me that wine knowledge required constant upkeep – ten or twenty minutes of reading here and there, a taste of this and that, good notes, etc. – and that he personally tried to get at least half an hour of fresh new wine material reading each night.

one of my favorite moments at the alumni affairs office was when Ken would bring boxes of wines to the conference room and offer them to the staff for incredibly low prices. i remember, as a curious sophomore, i would snoop around and taste the seven or eight types of wines that Ken brought and explained to everyone. at first, i used these wines to wash down the cheese and biscuits i had stuffed into my mouth, occasionally feeling the buzz after the tenth glass. but with every sip, i began to distinguish the taste little by little. by late junior year, i was buying as many bottles as i could carry each time Ken held these fire sales. and my curiosity for wine grew.

while the film Sideways seems to have made wine into a more accessible commodity, i’ve always appreciated the early exposure to the world of wine through Ken. from time to time, i would ask him which wines would go well with certain foods, and i would ask which vintage of a particular region would be a best buy at the moment. he always had answers and more. i can still remember the time he recommended a Picpoul to go along with Asian foods – especially Chinese and Thai – and boy, did that hit the spot. i still tell my friends that if you want “summer in a bottle,” they should go for a Picpoul (white). and remember – sauvignon blancs from New Zealand have the wonderfully citrusy flavor and more fruit than the California ones.

in anticipation for my upcoming roadtrip with Andy to Vermont this weekend, where we plan to visit three or four wineries and also make a stop at the Magic Hat brewery, i emailed Ken and asked him if he knew anything about Vermont wines and for any other general tips. he replied:


Of all the places to visit vineyards!!! Well, I actually know of only one vineyard in Vermont, but there are a few others (or so I am told). The one that I know is called Shelburne Vineyards, in Shelburne VT. They have a website: Many of their wines are organic. I have had a couple of their wines…not great but not the worst I’ve ever had either.

The most important thing to remember…especially if you’re driving is to sip, or better yet, spit. Don’t try and drink a lot in one sitting. The vineyard also should not give you big helpings. Start with whites, move onto reds and end with dessert wines. Enjoy and be safe.


Heart-warming tips from the man who got me to enjoy wines. I hope Vermont isn’t as terrible as it sounds. At worst, we can always knock back some sweet, fruity wines back in our hotel room, which, coincidentally, is in Shelburne.

Speaking of my days at CCT, I realized that my final article written for the magazine came out a few weeks ago. It was my last Bookshelf Box piece on author Robert Emmet Long, who has written extensively on Merchant Ivory, the independent and critically-acclaimed film company. it was really inspiring to interview Mr. Long, who has spent a great deal of his life writing intellectual criticism in literature, theater, and film. and to see someone of his age (seventies) continue to write so prolifically is truly admirable. I really value the time I had at CCT because of the special access I had to a wide range of writers – from erudite scholars to pop noir writers to chicklet lifestyle guides – and how i was expected, at least one book at a time, to feel, or at least pretend to be, familiar with an author’s genre. knowing the right questions to ask can mean the difference between an engaging article and an uninteresting one — hopefully some people have found these writers to be interesting over the years.

well, it’s late and i must bid farewell. work isn’t so bad, and i found a nice place to drink champagne late into the night only four blocks away (a place called Flute) — anyone interested?

the elusive hope (7 of 10)

note: ten-part series continued! | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

The last time. It was raining lightly and cold outside. It was one of the more dreadful February evenings in New York. He held an umbrella up for Janet as they walked out of the restaurant. It was their fourth visit to Otto, the upscale pizzeria and enoteca near Washington Square. During the course of their relationship, Janet had helped him to develop a fondness for wine and cheese. Otto offered a large selection of Italian wines and various types of cheeses, and the couple usually opted for eight or nine different cheeses with maybe two or three appetizers on the side. He always ordered the fresh calamari with basil although Janet seemed to disapprove of the raw texture.

He knew something was off-kilter when she only sipped half a glass of wine the entire night. They usually ordered a bottle of Lugana Riserva Zenato 2002 and then tried a random red. They never finished the Lugana, and she asked the waiter for more ice water.

“Are you seriously going to stick with that job of yours?” she asked.

“Hey, we’ve had this talk before. I still need to sort things out and think about what I want to do,” he said.

“You’ve been ‘sorting’ things for ten years now. You can’t keep settling for shitty dead end jobs and pitying yourself,” she said.

“Okay. Listen. We’re out to have a quiet night and to enjoy dinner. So let’s not talk about this now,” he said, but she had already stopped listening to him.

They made love that night. He had trouble sleeping afterwards. The soft feeling of inebriation absent this time, he grew anxious. She was often testy these days, and she exhibited a coldness that seemed to intensify noticeably with every petty argument. He was afraid that if he woke up the next morning, she would be gone.

She was still there when he woke up, her back turned towards him. He let out a sigh and got ready for work.

It was the next day that she left. He knew instantly the moment he got back from work. Her clothes and personal belongings were either gone or thrown into the trash can. He looked for a hand-written note or a message on his cell phone. Nothing. He wanted to call her, but didn’t know what to say. He took out a bottle of chianti, which they kept along with a few other wines on top of their refrigerator, and began to drink straight out of the bottle.

The next day, he found an email from her. Sorry, I had to leave. I’ll have the papers sent to you. Please sign them so we can end things peacefully. He furiously wrote up a reply, asking why she was doing this, and how she could simply throw away the marriage without even consulting him. Had she been in an affair? Couldn’t they work out their problems? Did he do something wrong? But he never sent it to her. He waited, and the papers came.

He lied to his parents. He said it was a mutual parting and that they had remained on friendly terms. They felt bad for him, but did what they usually thought was best for all parties – they left him alone.

The last time he heard her voice was when he called her a few weeks after their divorce had been finalized.



“How have you been?”

“Good. You?”

“I’m okay.”

“Hey, did you take the iron?”



“I have to go.”


She hung up before he could tell her to wait. He went to Duane Reade that day and bought an iron. He didn’t even know where she stayed.


The last time. Greg called late at night and left a message on his voicemail the day before their planned dinner at Wolfgang’s.

“Hey, I hate to do this to you, but I’ve been offered a new job, and it looks like our business thing will have to be put on hold. I’ll call you up sometime. Take care.”

He never heard from Greg again. He went to Wolfgang’s that evening on his own and ordered a filet mignon, a side of creamed spinach and German potatoes, and a bottle of cabaret sauvignon, which he managed to finish by himself.

when authors do the three name thing

there was a pretty girl i once knew who was an English major. i told her about Robert Penn Warren, poet laureate and author of one of my favorite books, All the King’s Men. she wasn’t familiar with the name but scoffed at the author because he had a “pretentious three-part name.” i had never heard such a thing before since i thought that authors usually go by whatever their names were or whatever they were comfortable calling themselves. Robert Penn Warren sounded harmless enough for me, and i couldn’t imagine where this pretension was coming from.

on Tuesday, i sat at my cubicle and stared at the monitor as my computer generated cashflows for an ABS CDO (asset-backed securities collateral debt obligation). just few days before, i had picked up Native Speaker, written by Chang-Rae Lee, off of my bookshelf and begun re-reading parts of it. midway through the third chapter, i realized that Native Speaker would make a great film. i wondered how i would go about adapting the screenplay and even went as far as to imagine who would play the part of Henry or Lelia in the film. i went as far as to begin planning my future weekends to devote to the project of adapting the novel. so when i sat in front of my computer watching numbers count up slowly, i decided to email the author, the Princeton professor, Chang-Rae Lee.

in the email, i briefly mentioned my own film experience and how i would love to adapt Native Speaker into a delicate screenplay. and i also let loose the fan in me, letting him know how much i appreciated his work. i also told him that, like himself, i too was in finance right out of undergrad, although i wasn’t sure if this was the path i would continue to take. i finished off by saying that i loved to write and continued to do so almost daily. i told him that cashflows were being generated behind the email box i was writing to him. i sent it and stared blankly at the monitor for another few minutes.

today, he replied. although short and definitely a polite “no” to my screenplay idea, it was a nice feeling to receive something from an author i admired so much. how many times had i felt his narrative partly telling my own life story? if anything, i was inspired to write more.

Thanks for your thoughtful, and kind, note. I appreciate your interest
but unfortunately those rights [for the screenplay] are already spoken for,
and so you’re out of luck. I do want to say that I appreciate your interest in
the novel, and hope that you’ll continue to work through those long, long
nights of number crunching — as you suspect, I felt similarly all those
years ago, sort of just biding my time. Good luck with the work.

Best wishes,

and i thought how funny it was that he signed his named that way – three parts.

for your reading pleasure, i found this extensive interview of CRL in which he discusses all his novels to date as well as other questions, such as the media’s comparisons of him to Kazuo Ishiguro (which he doesn’t seem to like too much).