grieving on the 29

“querida…querida…querida…i love you so much querida”

she walked onto the bus alone and i knew.

for the past few years (time is a bit of a vacuum in parkdale), i’ve been seeing a lovely couple on the 29 bus. they travel to dufferin mall because the husband has to go to dialysis. the wife is round and bubbly, the consummate caregiver, ever ecstatic to see me. the feeling is mutual.

yesterday, i saw her for the first time in a long time, and her whole aura was different.

“my husband, he die.”

she sat in the seat in front of me, also a change, as they would always take the first blue seats and wave furiously at me, grabbing me for a kiss on the way out, even when the bus was way too crowded. i’ve spoken with bus drivers before about her-she’s everyone’s favourite.

yesterday, i saw what crying looks like when there are no tears left.

yesterday, i cried the tears that had dried up in her ducts.

i am crying as i write this right now.

yesterday, i saw what grieving the loss of the love your life looks like.

“querida…jesu…querida…jesu…querida…”

we held hands on an unseasonably warm november afternoon, crying and expressing our love for each other. i didn’t understand all of the words that she was saying, i never do, but i think we got the important ones.

just like i cannot imagine what it would be like to grieve parents that one loves, i cannot imagine what it would be like to lose a lifelong love, never knowing that kind of love.

increasingly, i’m not convinced that that is necessarily a bad thing.

i wish all of the healing and peace and sanctuary to this woman.

i thank her for the remainder that i still have tears to hold and shed, and we all still have work to do.

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parkdale-4

i think we were all a bit tired last night.

we did exercises on character, switching gears from place, and i found it challenging for this reason:

“I think it’s easier for me to write about place than character in this neighbourhood because the hood is a character, and so full of real ones, that it’s hard to imagine one in.

Perhaps I should personify the tamarind balls that I forgot are for sale in that OG general store.”

and, so.

perhaps i was just too full of baked onion rings.

we’ll try again next week.

parkdale love letters-week three

for the first time last week, i left the workshop with a piece that needed work and re/work. i knew from the free write that it would be the night that i pay tribute to dov, and i had just come from jim wong-chu’s memorial the night before, so i was feeling a bit bittersweet and tender. but that’s the thing about writing-it’s always got me through.

i lit some incense for these friends and mentors yesterday, imperfect as they were, and went out into my community to celebrate strong women and also to cry in the ceremonial space that was walking with our sisters-it’s kind of hard to fully celebrate when the misogyny and art that comes from healing is so real. the top part of a moccasin is called a vamp (i learned this), and a gymnasium full of decorated yet not sewn into a full shoe (to represent the unfinished lives of the missing and murdered indigenous women) was so power-full and so shame-full (hey, canada). i crumbled at the first baby one, and cried angry tears at the ones that had dates-1971 stands out-some people have been waiting for justice for their loved ones for 8 years before i was born, and many more have been waiting so much longer. one set were covered in garbage bags and stated “we are precious. we are not your disposable garbage”. the beadwork, the needlework, the mourning, and the artistry that came out of the creativity necessary for survival was flooring and another reminder of the inequality between women and men, because even when we are navigating the most violent of circumstances, we are the ones shouldering the responsibility of educating and coping, all while our bodies are the battleground.

and they call us crazy.

well.

there were a lot of feels that came out of life last week, so here’s to starting this one with some process:

i chose two pictures tonight
because of their warmth
no one was in the frames
but lights were the sign of life

i took a picture of you once
at the Cadillac Lounge
whisky was in the frame
but no physical copy exists
you’re as tangible as you ever were

drawn to your smoky drawl
country in the city
art on your arms and music in your heart
i suppose i chose warmth thrice

i once saw you cry because
your wall was covered
immediately after you painted it
and i am still moved
when i hear that old soul singer
you introduced me to
now especially

frozen water
still water
live

reflecting the light
evidence that we were here
but also that we’re not

you went back to the ocean
home forever
except the part of your essence
that remains in Parkdale

i hold space.

the mortality of jim wong-chu

“did you know jim wong-chu?”

“yea, did he die?”

“yes, two days ago”

“of course i knew him from the RP days and he was also my mailman”

“oh yea, he was a mailman”

“and then he called me a bridge-burning lesbian”

“WHAT?!”

i mean, this was less of a big deal to me than the person who informed me of jim’s passing over text, and jim himself. he definitely had a problem with lesbians.

and bridge-burning.

admittedly, i was always on the outskirts of his legacy, even when i lived in vancouver, and moved into the neighborhood that the ricepaper office was in that also happened to be his route (no accidents). i was a freshly minted women’s studies (under)grad and oh so worldly because i spent a year in viet nam immersing myself in “my culture”-i was ready to claim my place amongst the great magazine writers of the world.

so i got a retail job. because no writer can make it just writing, right?

well, jim started an asian-canadian arts and culture magazine so that we could not only see ourselves reflected, but we also had a platform to create our own culture, and document it as it was happening. it wasn’t perfect, but it was/is.

he also started a grant (that i’ve been meaning to apply for) so that we could ensure our place in the canadian literary canon.

he also had a day job, and stayed at it because hey-writers gotta eat, and he chose one that allowed him to be not only publisher and literal distributor (he put my copies right into my mailbox, and probably saved on postage too!) but also to hang around the office and suggest wild article ideas to any young writer trapped in asian filial politesse he could see.

there were people-editors, directors, managers between jim and me, and most of them at one time or another had an estranged relationship with him, and to be honest, i think i forgot he was the founder and publisher until i googled the death announcement this morning, two days late.

as i write this, i’m in a text conversation with a RP affiliate that i’ve been meaning to see for some time now. this is not the reason that i envisioned that would bring us together. but it is the one that brought us together officially.

i lost track of jim when i left vancouver (presumably to become a bridge-burning lesbian) for montreal, but i thought he would always be there. i would hear about him from time to time, and even asked about him.

he was born two years after my father, so he died at 68.

it would seem that i haven’t asked about him in some time. and i haven’t heard.

but here’s to the legacy of jim wong-chu. i will forever respect his hustle and his humility to disappear into the footnotes, never use his own platform to write all the stories about the bands of acrobatic asian janitors that he met, and all the times he offered his own money to one (or all) of us to eat.

i’m great-full to him for never checking me, as i’m old enough now to know that i should’ve been checked many times over. i’m sure that there are many who can testify more intimately to the ways their lives and careers have been touched by jim wong-chu, but i offer this peripheral blink.

thank you, jim, for the reminder of impact, vision, and the importance of taking up space because it’s not a high school dance.

the next time i’m at main and broadway, i’ll pour out a little congee for you. unless they’ve razed my congee joint too. (sigh).

as much as i was lost in a self-absorbed fog of how i had to leave vancouver, it was perfect at that time of my life, and i was exactly where i needed to be. this reminder comes not a minute too soon, here in this city that i’ve finally reached after idealizing it for so long from there.

things are pretty freaking good here and now, too.

i guess that light bill had to be paid

“are police supposed to do this?”

after a discussion with someone last week about what we like in porn (and his answer being “amateur” because it was “something real”), i realized that what i like is something with a story-and the more outlandish, the better.

and by that i mean different from the dominant porn narrative, which already exists in a vacuum and is ridiculous. you couldn’t find anyone further away from being turned on by the ol’ no pleasure for women with unrealistic nails who are just passive receptacles until you jizz on their faces-and they love it.

once someone showed me something “with a twist”-for the money shot, all of a sudden, a nectarine was produced to hold the jizz, and then she ate it.

men are so basic.

no, what i’m talking about is a ridiculous scenario that people can still act through, keep the facade alive-i’ll never forget the one i saw about a nude intruder on the premises who was stealing the garbage, so of course, buddy had to go out there, wrestle her out of his recycling bin, and fuck her. yup-it was a human enactment of woman as raccoon.

or the one where three doods were just hanging out on a rooftop with their dicks out as bats, playing baseball-hitting actual baseballs with their fucking dicks. now, correct me if i’m wrong, but them shits is hard. (in this case, the balls and the bats were hard). they did this for a little while, until a woman magically appeared when they needed to sharpen their bats and then they went to town on her on a workout bench. and she was dressed like the mary j. blige what’s the 411 video-with her tits out.

so, for the sake of a story, and an annual check-in with porn, i decided to go looking. what i found was a video called “police brutality” that involved two buxom white female officers busting a scrawny black “perp” for home invasion, and then making him fuck his way to freedom.

now, despite how many problems there are with this premise, and it’s no coincidence that it appears in our current political climate, it’s just pitiful to watch because the poor man looks so forlorn and makes the most furtive eye contact with the camera-knowing that his mama and aunties and younger female cousins will make so much fun of him if ever they saw this, not to mention his boys. it’s really in your face, actors-you give it all away.

but not only is he full out embarrassed, he cannot maintain an erection-i have no idea why, as the more dominant woman is barking at him to be grateful that “this female officer is sucking your big cock” instead of taking him to jail. the poor thing is seated on the floor, sandwiched between the women in very convincing cop uniforms (complete with shoes and holsters) and while the one is kneeling awkwardly to work his flaccid member in her mouth, the other one is straddling his face, first backwards (so she can supervise and yell) and then forward, and while she’s barking the order to “eat my fucking pussy”, i’m worried that his poor little neck will snap.

overall, it’s not sexy, but i’m mesmerized. this is what porn has always been for me-a revealing sociological study. and humans are so fascinating and ridiculous.

i hope at least that this poor man got his light bill paid, because short of losing a bet, i don’t know why he was there, and it didn’t seem like he did either.

on being grabbed by the pussy….

“you know what you should do?”

now, even if whatever follows is true or insight-full, this is the absolute wrong way to introduce your idea. it’s as much of a guarantee that the person you’re addressing will benjamin button listen to you (stop before s/he even dang starts) as “calm down” is an effective way to talk someone down from a tantrum.

when will be the right time to get somewhere in the discussion of the everyday violence that is perpetrated on women’s bodies? when will we acknowledge how fucked up it is that these wars are waged on the territory that we simultaneously occupy and cede control over?

i can’t understand/condone/accept/wrap my head around the fact that there is a presidential candidate that is advising people to grab women by the pussy. anthony and the hamiltones are great (“whose billy goat is this?” is my personal favourite), but those hand gestures are as cringe-worthy as the harmonies are gorgeous.

i myself was grabbed by the pussy seven years ago. on the terrace at future’s bakery while i was dressed as santa claus. it was my first year in toronto and i was doing odd jobs-this one was one of the oddest. i was directing people to the craft fair at the tranzac.

i am 5’2. the man that grabbed me was 6’3. i mention this because unlike the gentle squid-like grabs of the harmonizers, this was a hard cupping, as if his hand was in a baseball mitt, it was a violent thrust, and it was straight up. i was taken aback because of our height difference how it even happened.

after i registered what happened, i had to decide what i would do next, and what i decided to do was nothing. i mean, i wasn’t young and molested by a relative (this time)-i wouldn’t be so scarred that i wouldn’t be able to come out of my house. but i’m asian, a woman, and dressed like fucking santa claus. the police would be a long time coming, and dood was immediately gone. i would’ve been the one on trial, the one who was making a scene, the one who would’ve been further inconvenienced, and i wasn’t looking for that.

i also felt sorry for him, because he seemed to be so adept at it-how many other women had he touched in that way? or perhaps he had no idea because i was the first woman he had ever touched, and that was the way he did it. whose fault is that? porn? how damaged must you be if this is how you feel it’s ok to interact with a stranger in this way?

but i knew it would be a good story someday, and now look-today’s the day.

so, you know what you should do if you don’t have a pussy?

shut the fuck up about how/what/when/with whom/how often those of us who do should.

thank you and goodnight.

fearless-a cartoonist’s guide to life-robb armstrong

“Nothing in nature is constant.” (39)

biscotti is getting soft.

i’ve noticed this over the years, and i’m wondering if it’s because people’s teeth are getting weaker in proportion to how their spirits are getting sharp.

from the woman who demanded my seat on the bus (i usually offer but biiiiiitch…) to the children who were bouncing our free fruit for kids apples like basketballs after i repeatedly asked them to stop and consider that they were there for everyone to eat and not play with (if these are your children, i judge you for not teaching them to respect produce and humans, and i will come for them if i see them in the streets), to the woman who refused to accept that we wouldn’t be bullied to put her gluten-free needs before that of all others in our store-the pissy sense of entitlement has been coming through very strong lately.

yesterday, i got one step closer to finishing my indie coffee passport, returning to golden cafe-a not so easily accessible cafe that did not post on their facebook when they went on vacation a few weeks back. the americano was pretty good, but the fact that i got no smiles or thank yous, was charged $1 for three slivers of ice, and told with scorn that the cream (which was empty) was behind me made me wonder about repeating the voyage next year. it’s true-we’re not paying customers on the passport (except that we did pay), but we took the time to come to your cafe that we probably didn’t know about, and if you’re nice-we might come back. i guess it’s like winter/summerlicious-people feel like prix fixe is a reason to skimp on service, or basic humanity. well-just don’t do it, then. because either you do, and you’re great-full for the opportunity to serve people who may never come back, or you don’t and turn down the customers that you don’t even know that you may get. i know tipping is a controversial topic, and i’m not going to get into it, but basically-tip or don’t-i’m sure you have your reasons/service standards, and hopefully your message will be understood. but don’t tip a penny-that’s just a jerk move. this truth stands for those on the other side of the counter.

i went in way too many circles around the city yesterday due to tiff and the general downtown nonsense, but on my very last leg home, i crossed paths with a 7″+ older black man dressed in flowing white garments. i looked waaaaay up to make eye contact and say hello. he beamed back down at me and said, “hi darling”. the woman in front of me who had slowed down as i passed her, seemingly intentionally to tell me, “he was scary”. “what was scary about him?” “the way he was, he didn’t look at me”. “oh, well, he just smiled and greeted me very nicely” “oh, not me”. well-how did you greet him? what the fuck energy did you put out-suspicious and cunty? he probably didn’t even register your bullshit as it was aimed as his knees. had you made an effort to look into his eyes, you probably would’ve had a different experience.

and that’s the lesson-we need to be accountable for what we get out of this life because nobody owes us shit.

“One thing I’ve learned: art, love and wisdom are worth nothing unless you give them away. Never hold back your best stuff for later. You might not have a later. Give it all away-every bit of it-to your readers, your audience, your partner and your kids. Give the world your all, and the world will reward you, often in the most unexpected ways.” (5)

there are always going to be people in this life who try really hard not to be assholes. and then there are others who just see all that space to fill up with their assholedom and take it the fuck up. just because i know that’s true, i’m not going to pull that basic bitch shit and “get mine”. i won’t be swayed from my path to do the right thing, even if i have to get off the streetcar two stops early in poor footwear because the church lady is judging too loudly in my ear the people that she refuses to talk to anymore because all they do is talk about other people.

(kisses teeth).

i love how robb armstrong structured this book, and even though i didn’t do any of the drawing challenges, i’m thinking about them. this came to me on some library synergy, as i heard him talk on the philly free library podcast, and then i came upon the book right on the shelf at parkdale after one of my self-directed piano lessons.

i’m still thinking about that “all lives matter” that he slipped in there…btw.