Sunday, August 3, 2008

Karen Eng in America

Twelve years ago, in my first magazine job at PC Games, I became great friends with the estimable Karen Eng. Essayist, book editor, zine mogul, and currently writer for the United Nations Environment Programme, Karen was one of the first friends I made in the magazine industry. She's been distant for years, living in South America and now England, but she made a rare cameo in the Bay Area this week and I was lucky enough to grab a short visit with her in Berkeley today.

She and husband Ian have not aged a day in 12 years, which is deeply unfair when people like me have aged 20 years in the same timespan. But it couldn't happen to nicer folks, and their toddler Xoxo is a delightful-looking chip off the block. (I've never known the pronunciation of the name's "Zozo." Maybe the kid will settle on "Pat" or something like that.)

Lots of great stories about Karen, but here's one that speaks volumes about her unique sense of humor. She had this great gag that she used to employ when we'd be driving to lunch or somewhere. I'd be at the wheel, Karen would be in the passenger seat, and when a car would pull up next to us at a red light, if it was a guy driving the other car he would inevitably look in at Karen. Whereupon she would freeze rigidly and assume the caricatured pose of a sex doll -- eyes wide open, mouth agape in an exaggerated "O," and arms straight out like Frankenstein. The reactions of the other drivers were pretty priceless.

It was great to see two old friends, and their tiny new addition. (I've known Ian the same 12 years, as they've been together the whole way -- who says true love is dead?) It's also good to know that one of my writer friends is actually putting her talents to world-saving use, for the UN of all places. Good on you, Karen -- and great to see you again.

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