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.

the sympathizer-viet thanh nguyen (finale)

“We genuflected, but in actuality we were atheists who had chosen communism over God.” (25)

“My mother called me her love child, but I do not like to dwell on that. In the end, my father had it right. He called me nothing at all.” (20)

“Despair may be thick, but friendship’s thicker. After that, nothing more needed to be said, our camaraderie enough as we heeded the call of the Katyusha rockets, hissing in the distance like librarians demanding silence.” (34)

“He was the only many I had ever met who seemed moved, deeply, not only by love but also the prospect of killing. While he was an expert by necessity, i was a novice by choice, despite having my opportunities.” (95)

“It was, instead, the best kind of truth, the one that meant at least two things.” (116)

“And that’s precisely how she spoke, trimming pronouns and periods, as if punctuation and grammar were wasted on me.” (122)

“…the thickish manila envelope arriving with my name misspelled in a beautifully cursive hand.” (122)

“One could choose between innocence and experience, but one could not have both.” (143)

“The communists hate love songs, said the admiral. They don’t believe in love or romance or entertainment. They believe the people should only love the revolution and the country. But the people love love songs, and we serve the people.” (285)

“What makes us human is that we’re the only creatures on this planet that can fuck ourselves.” (237)

“That’s a good word. Always resent, never relent. Perhaps that should be our motto.” (133)

it wasn’t until i copy/pasted that second passage that i remembered that the protagonist in this story is nameless. unlike the haters, i love that. i love it because often, when we are telling war stories, we forget those who are in certain boats, probably because it would break our hearts to say their names. i love it because this is a story for all of the nameless. that this is an example of how sometimes, the story isn’t written by the victors. or maybe, that the victors didn’t actually win. judging by american cinema, this is point of contention over a war that on the other side, is known as the american war.

once again, i love this book and i’m proud.

blue plate special-kate christensen (part too)

“I was virginal and petrified and much too in love with him to allow anything real to happen. I identified with and envied him more than I lusted after him-he had all the qualities I lacked and desperately wanted to develop: confidence, autonomy, a backbone, a strong sense of self. I was insecure, introverted, self-conscious and shy. My crush on him propped me up, but until I could develop those things in myself, I would never be able to connect in a real way with someone I was in love with. I knew it at the time and it made me jumpy with frustration, with anxiety and impatience to grow up and leave adolescence behind.” (145-6)

“He rode a motorcycle. He was sad-eyed and Irish-Jewish and handsome in a skinny, feline way, and he had been a biochemist before he became a writer. He had a tragic family history. Most important, he seemed to think very little of me and to enjoy putting me in my place. This last quality was catnip to me and a clarion call to arms: I was determined to win his respect, to prove to him how worthy I was, to break through his impenetrably dense self-involvement. Also, he confirmed my worst opinions of myself, which satisfied my deep self-loathing.” (225)

“At the start of my sophomore year, after I’d had my heart well and truly broken by a stoner physics major named Kip with long blond hair and a dudely, passive-aggressive sweetness I could neither resist nor penetrate, I razored off my own long hair into a spiky boy’s cut full of cowlicks in an attempt to rid myself of my femininity entirely.” (197)

“I had no sexual interest in Kenny at all; I just wanted to marry him, which seemed like a completely different thing. What I liked best about him was that he had a crush on someone new. He was unattainable, a challenge.” (103)

“I had been able to tell Alec that I couldn’t sleep with him; with Tommy, I felt like paralyzed prey, and, because of my silence, I was therefore complicit somehow, or so he made me feel. I had fallen right into his trap. His rationale for abusing so many girls was that they didn’t tell him not to, and therefore they wanted him to. It never seemed to occur to him that laws protecting minors from predators like him were in place because we were too young and vulnerable to protect ourselves. He didn’t actually rape me, but some of my friends weren’t so lucky.” (131)

“We were both frustrated young writers who thought we were much smarter than we were, which engendered a kind of chaotic melancholy that needed blotting out.” (233)

“He’d married me in part because he loved my wild side, and I’d married him in part because I loved his stable, conventional side. He saw me as exciting and a little crazy, and I saw him as deeply trustworthy and solid. Unfortunately, these were the qualities in ourselves we most wanted to leave behind.” (281)

“Much of our talking in our first six months was about these fears. We challenged each other, tested each other, put each other through the wringer, even as we offered each other reassurance and love. We were both blown over by how quickly, fully, and precipitously we had fallen in love. Of course, we were terrified of being hurt and disappointed, of making a mistake. It was very clear from the start that this was no halfway thing, no light romance or short-lived fling. It was all or nothing with us from our first date. We’d put ourselves in each other’s hands, exposed ourselves completely and absorbed each other, and so we had to be very careful.” (335)

this collection of passages is about the relationships and the learning that is possible from stumbling through and growing older (if not up). i don’t have much more to say, other than i pulled them because i saw something, and the end is what i’ve always wanted. hashtag, squad goal.

against love-laura kipnis

“Love is also a way of forgetting what the question is. Using love to escape love, groping for love outside the home to assuage the letdowns of love at home-it’s kind of like smoking and wearing a nicotine patch at the same time: two delivery systems for an addictive chemical substance that feels vitally necessary to your well-being at the moment, even if likely to wreak unknown havoc in the deepest fibers of your being at some unspecified future date.” (49)

“The freedom to develop one’s own personality in one’s own way is widely regarded as a fundamental human right of the modern individual, but isn’t it also what makes certain mates so incredibly difficult to get along with?” (75)

“Lovers reveal to each other what they don’t dare say elsewhere, sometimes not even to themselves. Perhaps love affairs are for saying the unsayable.” (120)

“And what sort of shrivelled social creature emerges from this prolonged warm bath of advice? If once brimstone and hellfire kept populations in line, now there’s sudsy self-improvement.” (69)

this is another gem that came out of the writers who reveal their reasons for not breeding book, and i’m ever great-full for that anthology and all the wisdom that has come from its index.

i like the discussion of love in the context of control and identity and all of the associated constructs. it’s a great prequel to the article in the aforementioned anthology, really.

yesterday on the beach, i stated that i feel very privileged that a) i have never known substance abuse and b) i do not have fibroids. i guess what i mean by this is that i have never yielded to any chemicals that exist outside my body, and my body has never been an enemy to me-specifically, my female body has never been an enemy to me. i acknowledge that these two things have probably influenced my life decisions and how i experience the freedoms of my own making.

i also acknowledge the privilege of living in a rich, imaginary world and choosing love or the illusion of love to cope from love and being utterly and completely disappointed when the real thing shows up in all its realness.

sorry, love. i wanted you to look like you did in the pictures.