Friday, January 23, 2004

THE YEAR OF THE MONKEY

Yesterday, January 22, ushered in Chinese New Year, the Year of the Monkey, 4701.

Growing up, Chinese New Year was the only holiday that meant something to us. In my earliest memories, I recall a Chinese New Year celebration at my grandparent's house, several months after our arrival in our new homeland. It was 1982. In a small rented house on Lincoln Avenue. I remember the fading images of the feast of food on the table: noodles, rice, ducks, chickens, egg rolls, and shrimps. Yummy! My grandfather was there. My grandmother cooked. My parents were happy. My aunts were young. My siblings little. It was three generations of family around the dinner table. And of course, the red envelopes full of money. (But it really wasn't full of money). That night, we marked the beginning of our first year in America with food, laughs, stories, red envelopes, utterly in awe for the world around us. It was a night that should have been capture in a photograph. But it wasn't...

But here is my picture: an immigrant family, locked together by the soil of a lost homeland and the dreams for a better life, drunk with joy and laughter for the unbelievable moment in front of them. The house was small, the furniture was rescued from the street, our clothes were cheap. But the camera would forgive all that. Instead, what it would capture is simple happiness. For, at the moment, there was no lacking for a want. For a family that, a year earlier, had drifted to sea, who had no home, who lived in refugee camps, who struggled between life and death in the dark waters, everything was suddenly there. Everything was okay. In my picture, the camera would capture a family in the beginning of many new beginnings. It would capture it all.

That night seems so long ago. The Chinese (and I am Chinese) believed that the beginning of the year was an opportunity to usher in happiness. When I think of it now, my parents were always happy around that time. I can still see their smiles. I think they really believed that it was a new opportunity to create happiness, to create richness in life. I suppose, they were optimists that way.

Wednesday night, we had a small feast. Just my parents and brother. My sister couldn't make it. It was nice. But it's not the same now. People have gone, others moved on. But it's the only holiday we spend as a family because it still means something to my parents. And cause it means something to us too...

Each year, I'm reminded that I'm lucky, that I have so much. That, like my parents, I believe in the endless possibilities of life...

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

THE SECRET WORLD OF ASIANS

"As a Chinese boy in an American world, I was accustomed to facades."
-- Eric Liu, The Accidental Asian
The idea of an American idenity used to equate to whiteness. For a time, if you were black, you weren't American. And more recently, if you were yellow, you weren't American either. Since then, the ideology of what it means to be "American" has shifted to include blacks, yellows and greens. Hey, do I look American to you?

I remember trying to rip the skin off my arm. Once. It was dark and I was in some kind of rage. But that rage continued more omninously and covertly in my head. Growing up in Los Angeles in the '80s, I was made keenly aware that I was a nip and taunted for being Chinese. There wasn't just one incident. And it wasn't that simplistic. But I did strive to be white. Maybe it was American-ness I wanted, but it was whiteness that I was after. If other Asians were quiet, I was going to be loud. If other Asians were good at math, I was going to be good at something else. If I listen closley, I can still hear those voices today. But in my effort to distill, combat, defy the stereotypes of Asian-ness, I unwittingly went along with the perception and became the perpetuator of stereotypes of my own race.

Somewhere between Monterey Park and Berkeley, I found the land of the Asians. Again, it's another huge simplification of things. But... Looking back, I realized that I didn't want to be known primarily for being Asian. Nobody wants that. So we do things to try get over that "slash," to compensate for that dark mark. Recently, a friend said he worked out more because he's Asian. I'm not saying who, but when he said that, I initially scoffed. But maybe he has something, maybe we, as Asians, are still trying to overcompensate for our apparent yellowness because we know inside, no matter what we've accomplished or how well we speak English, that our skins give us away. Our skin betrays our American-ness...

So, do I look American to you?

Saturday, January 10, 2004

SOME THINGS YOU MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT ME, AND SOME YOU DON'T WANNA KNOW...

• I don't always act like it, but I feel fortunate for the people and experiences in my life. It is a good life.
• I like to look at myself in the mirror. A lot. Sometimes I pose, sometimes I tell myself, "I'm beautiful," sometimes I say, "Ughh..."
• In the second grade, when I was partnered with Maggie Bolivar for a dance performance, she looked at me and said, "Why do I have to be stuck with you nip?" I can still hear that smirk...
• I like to lie sometimes. Just about the little things though.
• Sometimes I think I'm Asian, other times I think I'm American. Sometimes, I'm not sure if I'm Asian or American or Asian American.
• I definitely believe in revenge!
• My father used to beat his children. It went on for years. I think I'm still scarred from that. Still...
• I cheat in Uno sometimes, but not as much as people think I do.
• Sometimes I worry that I have no talent, that I'm not going to make anything of myself. Maybe I should give up my dreams.
• Yummy is everything. I love food. I love to eat. I love buffets.
• I personalize more than I should, more than I want to, despite telling people they shouldn't personalize things.
• Once when I was drunk, I jerked off in a bathroom urinal, then moved to the stall to, well, finish...
• I know I make horrible first-impressions. I also know it's my responsibility.
• Sometimes, I'm pretty embarrassed by the stupid crap that comes out of my mouth.
• I don't think I'm as gracious at forgiving as I want to be. I think I hold things in. But I know better than that...
• When I was in my late teens, I once called a phone sex hotline. I was asked what I liked. I simply replied, "Volleyball, tennis and writing."
• I want to make a difference in life. I want to help my communities. I do want to help others.
• I'm a great kisser. Really.
• I don't think I'm a generous person.
• I am passionate about advocating social and political issues affecting Asian Americans.
• Sometimes I think I have a small penis. But most of the time, I really like it.
• I am scared that I'm not as smart as I used to be.
• Despite belief to the contrary, I really do believe that I am a people person. I do...
• Sometimes, I really hate myself.
• When I really don't have to, I don't shower. (I know, it's gross).
• Right now, I think I am full of shit.
• I am learning to be a better person: to be impeccable with my words and my actions. It's a great lesson...