January 5, 2012 § Leave a comment

The day Bobby and I met up with Ken for sushi, a pick-up game of basketball, and three pitchers of beer at a pirate bar, I read this passage in Chang-Rae Lee’s Native Speaker. We all attended Cal. I don’t personally know anyone named John Kim, though.

I forgot to add that Ken is also Japanese.


first date jitters

November 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

Me and B. ate here Sunday night. Young waiters in starched white shirts and black suspenders, a fancy wraparound bar, the steady light of candles at the bottoms of small decorative glasses, a low din from the folks celebrating a birthday at the long table across the room. Outside, people shaking out umbrellas, breathing into their cold hands. On the way to the restaurant, we saw the MLS championship game through the windows of a bar: flourescent screens, a completely dark interior. Eerie. The take-away point wasn’t so much the food (trendy remixes of Grecian staples) as it was the two young people seated next to us. They were on a first date. They made conversation in bright, determined voices. There was a sense of force being exerted — of two strangers trying to get at each other. How to make him like me? If I talk about snowboarding in Japan, will she find that impressive? Both parties trying to affect a studiedly casual and charming demeanor. They asked a number of those fact-finding questions that are so awkward and necessary. Like people going over a beach with a metal detector, hoping to locate something that will set off a triumphant fusillade of bleeps. Soulmate detected! When they found an interesting topic to talk about, something that they had in common, their voices rose excitedly. They leaned in; their poses relaxed. They laughed, relieved. Oh, look, we like each other — this might work out after all.

This was all the more striking because me and B. had very little conversation going around our own campfire. Except for the occasional peppy remark about the restaurant’s musical predilictions (“they just played two Kings of Convenience songs in a row!” — inexplicably pleased with myself for being able to tell) we spent most of our dinner dining in comfortable silence whilst eavesdropping shamelessly on our neighbors, which probably heightened their uncomfortable sense of having to act out the motions of a performance.

I have to wonder if they met online.

Oh! Here’s our menu for Thanksgiving dinner:

  1. Prime rib
  2. Creamed spinach
  3. Potato salad of dubious origins
  4. Salad, of the leafy variety
  5. Pumpkin pie
  6. Cheese biscuits
  7. Snickerdoodles


I often wonder if, given the opportunity, I would trade away my writing for the ability to draw and paint like this.

From here.

Note to self: read this when you have the time (Isaac Singer’s 1978 Nobel Prize Speech).

you’re not fit to talk to

November 9, 2011 § Leave a comment

1. A friend recently told me about a high school classmate of ours. When asked why he hadn’t bother to keep in contact with any of his former schoolmates, he claimed, in so many words, that they were too boring to be worth his time.

Now, this isn’t as enraging as that other time another high school classmate of mine posted a reprehensible Republican screed on her blog about how people who performed poorly in school had only themselves to blame (because obviously, her own success was not in any way influenced by the fact that she had two nurturing parents, a roof over her head, and money to spend on necessities like food and boxes of test prep manuals), but it still riles me, because in his dismissal he waves away a lot of worthy people, in preference for people who are “more cultured”, “more witty”, or “more fun”.

On one hand, who can blame him? I understand this point of view. People have limited amounts of time; best to spend what’s left of it smoking exotic herbs and fashioning post-modern sculptures out of wire hangers and laundry lint on the rooftop of your friend’s friend’s friend’s midtown chateau (read: subletted ratbox). I often feel like I don’t share similar interests with many of my high school friends. I am sure I have dismissed acquaintances in college because they seemed like shallow or boring people. I am even more sure that I have avoided people because they seemed uncool. « Read the rest of this entry »

charter schools, and some unpleasant reminiscences

November 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

Yesterday, at a restaurant, I ran into a girl who bullied me in middle school. That mean, narrow-eyed face. Her voice like talons in my larynx. We did this so hard.

If I’ve ever hated anyone in my life, it just might be her. I hope she sucks boba down the wrong tube one day and dies, the talentless bitch.


The Myth of Charter Schools, by Diane Ravitch, for the New York Review of Books.

S. works in a low-income school district. Today she told me about “kids who are being threatened to be sent to foster care because their aunt or uncle doesn’t want to take care of them anymore, children who are physically and emotionally abused, children who don’t have money for basic school supplies, children whose parents can’t help them or chose not to help them with their school work, parents who don’t tell their children that it’s important to go to school and [discipline them] when they get in trouble for misbehavior, parents don’t do anything to support the school, parents who work all day and night and don’t have time to take care of their children and instead have 10 year olds babysitting 2 year olds and doing all the house work, children who don’t have food because their parents don’t provide them with meals, parents who are going through a divorce yet neither wants to take their child so the child gets sent off to live with another relative and bounces between homes, parents who don’t provide livable conditions for their children, i.e., allowing their dogs to poop and pee all over the house creating unsanitary conditions and only cleaning up when the social worker is due for a visit.” These are kids she works with everyday.

I was thinking about the charter school debate. As I was telling S., it’s funny — or rather, unsurprising — how the media can really dictate your opinion about certain issues. I’d heard about Waiting for Superman and Michelle Rhee before, and read Steve Brill’s hair-raising article about NYC’s public school system*, as well as a small portion of his newly released book, Class Warfare. So prior to reading the NYbooks review I was under the impression that public education deserved a big F- on its scorecard and charter schools were the best hope for underprivileged children. But really the issue is much more nuanced than that. « Read the rest of this entry »

schmaltz and tea

October 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

Honestly, I was much better at this when I was sixteen years old. (Comic from here.)


Other miscellaneous observations:

  • Living back home means getting hit on by high schoolers who think you’re their age. Seriously not cool.
  • Colima Burgers: zucchini fries? Must check out.
  • I spoke to my next-door neighborhood for the first time in years and years and years. It was one of those chance encounters at the mailbox where she’s approaching and you’re approaching and you both look at the sidewalk and pretend not to have seen each other and then suddenly whump, there she is, and there you are, reaching for the mailbox for the same time. And then cries of surprise and delight are exchanged, hugs are dispensed, and the obligatory questions about boyfriends and jobs and future plans are ventured. Maybe an awkward joke is hazarded, and then she’s telling you to visit her fiancee’s Pakistani restaurant in Chino Hills (“What’s good there?” “Oh, everything“), and all the while her big black dog is going back and forth across the road, galloping the wobbles of fat on his haunches and underbelly. Suburbia is so strange. Enclosed, like its own temperate zone. I used to lie on my stomach in this woman’s living room, my chin in a big bowl of junk food, watching Grease reruns with her daughter. Then I’d spray down her backyard because it had all these ants loving on the bowls of dog chow the family set out on a place-mat. She’s gotten shorter, of course. Her make-up is much more evident about her eyes. She says her dog’s been depressed since his friend, the other dog, died.


October 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

I met one of the owners of the Middle Eastern grocery I typically visit to buy lamb shanks after volunteering on Saturdays. He was leaning against the cash register. His left eye, a clouded white marble, looked off slightly to the right. His right eye stared levelly at me. We exchanged a greeting, and he guessed correctly that I was Chinese by greeting me respectfully in that language. Then he said:

“I just came back from Benghazi. You know the situation in Libya?”

Yes, I said. I asked, “What were you there for?”

“To help,” he said mysteriously.

Then he drew me a diagram, crosshatching the areas which had been taken over by the rebels (“freedom fighters,” he corrected me), and pointing to the place where “that maniac Kadhafi” was hiding. I wanted to ask him all sorts of questions! What did he think about NATO’s role in the operation? What was his personal opinion on France and England’s involvement? And helping — what did that mean? But then another couple came to pay for their groceries and he had to help them.

low point

September 21, 2011 § Leave a comment

I’ve felt unspeakably dreary these past two days, and I don’t know why. Too little food? Too much? Creative uncertainty? All that comes from writing in a vacuum. Usually it’s enough to feel myself, appreciating myself, but sometimes it gets a little lonely. And a few days ago, of course, I was telling B. about former classmates of mine who had gone on to do — in fact still were doing — some interesting things, post graduation. The former EIC of the newspaper is now employed, in some unspecified but grand capacity, at the United States Senate. A writing workshop classmate of mine went from working at a D.C. think tank to working at the World Bank. A past housemate is employed at YouTube as a policy analyst and content monitor. Innumerable people are earning doctorates at great schools.

I try to tell myself that for every budding U.S. Senator, I know ten underemployed humanities majors doing drudge work at AnonCorp Inc; or winging it, with the help of wealthy parents, as a barely paid freelance writer. That helps.

I don’t think about my chances of being happy in law school if I can help it.

It’s probably not a coincidence that the night I have a nightmare about being chased down a narrowing stone alleyway by rapists was the same night I finished Dorothy Dunnett’s Checkmate. Actually, now that I think of it, the part of the dream where I hole up in a kind stranger’s house (the lady’s criminal husband from Drive?) was quite reminiscent of Philippa’s convalescence at Sevigny.

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