Meet Jason Yamaguchi. Born in Hawaii, but raised in New Haven, the 37-year-old Yamaguchi has been living at the Duncan Hotel for two years now. SCENE found him yesterday manning the oldest hand-operated elevator in Connecticut at the hotel, his eyes glued to the screen of his phone. He sat down with us for a brief chat about life, style and spirits at the Duncan.
Q: So first of all, Mr. Yamaguchi, how did you find your way to the Duncan?
A: I had known about the hotel before — I had heard of it, you know?
Q: How did you hear about the Duncan?
A: A friend who I used to work with used to live here and he had told me about it.
Q: Have you always lived in New Haven?
Q: Where did you live before New Haven?
A: I was born in Hawaii, but when I was young my parents split and I moved to New Haven with my mom. She’s from here.
Q: So when exactly did you move into the Duncan?
A: Two years ago.
Q: Did you start working here when you moved in or did you start after moving in?
A: I actually don’t technically work here. I’m a resident. I just needed a place and I called the manager for a place, not really for a job.
Q: Oh! How come you’re here working tonight then? Do residents normally take shifts around the hotel?
A: I’m just filling in for a friend tonight. The bellhop, he was in a bit of a pinch, you know, so I’m doing him a favor. I have another job.
Q: What do you do, if you don’t mind me asking?
A: I work at Louis’ Lunch.
Q: Cool! So do you like the Duncan?
A: Yeah … It’s a place to stay.
Q: What do you like most about the Duncan?
A: I don’t know, I guess the location — it’s right in downtown New Haven, everything’s accessible. I have no fuss getting to work at Louis’.
Q: Have you met any of the other residents or guests in the building?
A: A few.
Q: Any interesting characters?
A: We all pretty much just keep to ourselves.
Q: Is there ever a chance for you all to meet?
A: Sometimes we collect in the lobby to talk. But not really since everyone lives in hotel-style housing.
Q: Have you met anyone particularly interesting? Any former singers with financier husbands?
A: Uh, no. There are a lot of hotels in New Haven, you know? When the tennis tournament was in the city we saw some celebrities — the girl who won, [Caroline] Wozniacki, she was staying at The Study so we saw her pass by. But the celebrities don’t generally tend to stay here.
Q: What’s kept you here at the Duncan for the past two years?
A: I don’t know, the history itself. The price — you really can’t beat it.
Q: How would you describe the Duncan?
A: I would describe it as unique, historic. No, wait, classic. You know? Like that real classic style? Like Louis’ Lunch. Just that classic style, with history.
Q: Yeah, this place feels like it has a lot of history. Do you think it’s haunted?
A: I’ve been told.
Q: Have you seen any ghosts yourself?
A: No, but whenever I tell people I live at the Duncan they tell me, “Oh, that place, it’s haunted, right?” I don’t know though — I’ve just heard here and there.
Q: Has anything extraordinary happened in your presence?
A: No. There are just rumors. I haven’t seen a lot of action here.
Q: Do you think you’ll live at the Duncan for a while longer?
A: Probably another couple of years. A little less, a little more, who knows?