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.

storied truths

here are the stories that i heard from podcasts that keep swirling around my mind:

from death, sex and money: in one of the student loan episodes, a woman talks about how she had to default in her loans and her dad eventually committed suicide because he couldn’t handle her debt. now, as horrible as that is, i couldn’t help but wonder what their relationship was like, and maybe daddy was just looking for a way out, or he was super passive-aggressive and finally taught her a money lesson that she would never forget.

from love + radio: i was touched by how disgusting and petty people are-from the guy who clipped his toenails into his roommates’ food because they asked him not to eat it, or the girl who discovered masturbating with her dad’s electric toothbrush-“…and because he knew what a vagina smelled and tasted like….he finally discovered why the battery was always out”.

eeeeeewwwww.

from open run: because the playoffs were so boring, jesse and stefan took to talking about what they’re watching on netflix and other news stories. i can’t get over the dood that sued his date for $17.31 (plus pizza) because she was texting during guardians of the galaxy 2, breaking the rules of the theatre, and, also civil society. but really, his fragile male ego was bruised because she left him stranded at the theatre because he told her to text outside.

37 years old and sounds like an amaaaaazing date. i don’t know why no one has snapped him out yet.

which leads me to the podcast that’s been everything to me the last couple of days-the heart.

i know i’m late, but i can’t stop. it started with aliya‘s interview with caitlin on the imposter, and then i had to see for myself, not just the no series, but every other episode.

consent. confronting abusers. inheritance. losing yourself in a relationship. what’s love got to do with it?

everything, i tell you. every last thing.

i have the right to destroy myself-young-ha kim

“It’s easy to have sex when you can’t really communicate.” (66)

a few months back, some friends were jealous of me because i don’t smoke enough to be blase high. especially when they always bring out new implements and shit-i can’t keep up (i know i’m west coast, but i left…) and part of me sometimes wishes that i could just fuck.

and i might be able to one day, but i gotta get there with someone that i actually like, that likes me. but then why wouldn’t i just want to be with that person?

i guess this quote means that it’s easy to have sex, but not necessarily good sex. i suppose that’s the line that i can’t really get with anymore-i don’t have any time for mediocre sex. and i can’t buy into the hype that communication doesn’t matter.

the ideal situation is tenderness and understanding and humour, but not wanting to be in a thing, but that’s complicated because not wanting to be in a thing is different from “coming from an impossible situation” or “not being over your last thing” or “emotionally impossible and/or immature/still blaming your parents for shit that happened and you’re over 30”.

(sigh).

kanye sidebar:

“There are only two ways to be a god: through creation or murder.” (10)

(because what else do you do when you’re talking about relationships while not talking about relationships but pull a quote from the book that brings us to kanye)

and, because i’m all about an abrupt ending:

“People who don’t know how to summarize have no dignity.” (6)

chance the rapper-the be encouraged tour

“my mom says in arabic that when it’s raining and sunny, rats are getting married”

chance got finer.

it started innocently enough-i noticed that the show got rescheduled to the day that my season boo was coming to my home for the first time, and casually texted her about it, though she was just coming off of seeing him at the palace of auburn hills (yes, i am sad that i’ll prolly never see the pistons play there).

we had a lovely day of making soup and working on projects, separately and together, napping and watching many monsoons from my window. we made references to going to the show all day, but we both had things to do and, well.

around 5pm, we were called by carbs, and since she’s a vegan who hasn’t yet experienced doomie‘s (propagandistic comics and all), we decided to walk between showers the two now lovely-scented parkdale streets that separate me and the resto. we paid our respects to the lovely guard dog with a fierce underbite in the bougie flower shop, and settled into one of the window booths. i did a double-take in time and space when a pianist that i knew almost a decade ago in montreal walked past and we caught up for a minute before i just accepted that my hair would be smelling like fried.

but delicious mac and cheese (with mushrooms) and deep fried oreos later, we were full and happy and ready to make our way towards a very ominous cloud to see this guy. considering that it was a reschedule, it was pretty breezy to get a ticket.

the bag check should’ve been foreshadowing, but we were high and happy and made it through lightning and humidity and the dj’s name was oreo and there numbers and signs everywhere.

and the rapper was perfect-he was sounding right and looking right and his energy is amazing, if a bit too religious in that way that american artists get that make it a bit uncomfortable to sing along to sometimes. the special effects blended right in with mother nature’s downpour, and even though we were standing in sponges (i have yet to check on the canvas shoes that i left outside, but if someone took them-good riddance), it was beauty-full to be dancing in the rain.

the subsequent push to get to bags that was longer than the concert by a duration of 1.5 x? not so fun. but i suppose this is what happens when you throw 3000+ bags onto the floor and expect people to wait in line and retrieve them when it’s been pouring rain all night.

but it was hilarious to be amongst the high school kids budging the line and that one dood who “had to tutor french at 9am” and was feeling all the feelings over it. it was extra hilarious because he butt into the line, and then was lamenting this, and figured out 25 minutes later that it was the bag line and not the line to leave.

and canadians are hella polite, yo. i’m surprised that there was no riots, especially with all those bored white people excited about a “hype” rap show ready to fight garbage cans and shit.

based on the “blessings” that came down, i’m not sure what “praises” went up, but congrats to all the rats that celebrated their nuptials yesterday-it was an honour to be in your presence.

charmie deller

“you can’t stop what’s meant to be”

one of my editors once told me that hip hop writers are too insular. that was almost a decade ago, and as much as the music and the avenues have changed, i may be closer to accepting this as truth now.

i suppose there will always be a level of missed opportunity due to a lack of listening, and tonight was no exception. i mean-i only came in for the tail end of the panel, but i don’t believe anyone made a tie to the artists that would come directly afterwards, and it was an oversight not to point out the fact that charmie is and has been on her hustle game for real. i mean, there’s no better example of someone who is true to her (he)art and puts in the hours.

it was actually quite shame-full that one of the panelists, who was admonishing people for not listening to what he had to say, not only didn’t seem to know her name or her story to introduce her, but was also then talking loudly by the stage during her set. but i’ve been biased against such “expert” for a minute, biased in a way that i think he’s wack as shit. but people seem to want to pay him, so hey-get that money.

but let’s go back to making your own lane-i’ve been seeing babygirl on different stages over the past few years, but mostly-i see her (and her drummer), on the street. no matter the weather, i see her out there-by the eaton centre, at the acc, singing her songs and shining her light. i’m floored by the actual time that she must spend singing on the street, because i don’t even go out that much, and i still manage to catch her often enough to notice.

i heard when she won the lula showcase last year, from a producer who was so amped by seeing her that he was moved to work with an artist again for the first time in a long time, so in a way, it was full circle to see her on the stage there tonight. it was also clear that all of her busking time has seasoned her for a more intimate, no-frills arena, because her most power-full moments were when she stepped away from the mic, moved closer to the crowd, sang a cappella and played her guitar.

hey-i did see bettye lavette sing without a mic at metropolis at 70+ years old, so-anything is possible.

in contrast with the headliner, who had a sick band and all the trappings of a “professional musician”, all i saw was the future for charmie, because her songwriting has only gotten better and better, her work ethic remains on point, and her spirit is undeniable.

“we support ourselves when we support each other”

thank you for acknowledging my one clap, and i see you, star.

keep singing the truth.

“new ideas need old buildings”-tile at dufferin station

i’ve already been reprimanded this week for spoiling the nba playoffs, so let me not do this to a woman’s show.

but belladonna the blest or dm st. bernard‘s sound of the beast is everything, and then eleven more everythings. do yourself a favour and go see it. please. if one of the city’s finest (the finest imo) poets can roll through (and i think he even bought a ticket because he’s not a personal friend of the inspiration’s), you can too.

ok-psa over, do what you want.

i’ve been feeling the feels since i was in montreal for a week and a half, doing everything and nothing, and with the birth of babies all around and work never ending (and still not beginning), i know it’s not an accident that i ended up in the same room as these two that i run into so randomly it’s become specific. the fact that there was a stage and words and so many ideas layered and folded into ideas that if a mille-feuille crepe cake could be a thing that could be witnessed and absorbed and spoken and felt, this would be that thing.

i’m largely not a fan of the tiles at dufferin station, especially of the two that are close together near the main entrance, one reading “blah blah blah new immigrants” and the other “occasion to turn around”, like wtf?! but i never noticed this one before, or perhaps due to its proximity to the aforementioned as well as the “lemonade living” (and i paraphrase all these tiles, except for the one that i board the train at every day on my way to work which reads “something happens here”, because, well, who has time to footnote tiles, or remember them properly and such?) i’m too busy getting to the punchline of 3/5s when it’s so meta and brilliant, when accountability happens and its calling for is further justified when the perpetrator responds by throwing her kids under the bus. when a discussion about whose lives matter is brought about without the use of those slogans so familiar that have lost their lustre, but is named nonetheless, and stories are woven so beautifully that you forget for a moment that they’re tragic but flower petals are still gentle, whether or not they’re unbreakable, and you decide, we decide-but things are complicated, and we do what we can….

(i’m writing a new piece called “poets talk in circles”….but then again, that’s been the ongoing story of life itself)

place is a thing. theatre passe-muraille is a place. it’s been one of the most reliable places that i have crossed paths with dmsb over the years, and toronto is a place-also one of the most reliable locales. it’s an old building that’s housed almost 50 seasons of new ideas, and even though it’s been fixed, i still just can’t push that door…and i’m glad that i didn’t stay away when the latest ad joined-even when she was the first person to fire me from a job at a little theatre that we both worked at in mtl-what are the chances, right?

but there are no accidents, and (the) space (between our ears) is the real place.

we gotta work on that time-bending piece, but then again-we’ve been working on that project our whole lives.

this is why i scheduled a volunteer shift on my first day back to work after a long vacation of doing everything and nothing, horny as hell but great-full for the life choices i’ve made not to have kids and a dog (though i really, really love dogs and kids). it’s nice to be able to walk in and out of that for a week, because if it was real life, i woulda had to work all day and then go home to single-mother kids and a dog.

this is why.

i live for this and i am ever great-full to this woman for reminding me to do it by doing it.

shoutout to maddie bautista-we may have only met tonight (in this life) but it’s far from over.

sacred hoops-phil jackson

this was my holiday book, my homecoming book, probably partially what led to my dad asking me about “my favourite team, the chicago bulls” and having my grade 10 picture up because he doesn’t like my bangs in my grad picture. in a lot of ways, i did feel like i was back in the tenth grade, rooting for the bulls.

i rang in the new year, in a tall chair eating a delicious meal reading this, calmly waiting to come home. i don’t know how zen phil jackson is these days, running the new york knicks organization into the ground, but to be fair-he inherited a helluva job.

(and doing oakley like that?! come on, man-if he wasn’t traded for cartwright, you would’ve coached him instead of coaching against him all those years)

“Basketball happens at such a fast pace that your mind has a tendency to race at the same speed as your pounding heart. As the pressure builds, it’s easy to start thinking too much. But if you’re always trying to figure the game out, you won’t be able to respond creatively to what’s going on.” (50)

tell me about it. this playoffs is making me feel things that i never thought i would-like teams that i never cared about-i gotta hand it to the celtics, they looked really good against the bulls last night, though the t-shirt jerseys (and rondo’s blush on blush suit) maybe had something to do with it….and the rockets? i started out just rooting against westbrook-because can you really be mvp if your team is knocked out in the first round (again?) and the utah jazz? i didn’t know a single player, but hey-they’re looking pretty solid. i never thought i would be saying that in my lifetime. but i can’t figure basketball out, i can just love it.

“Our own life is the instrument with which we experiment with the truth.” -Thich Nhat Hanh

and love it i do. like this wonder-full vacation here in the trill. although i’m mostly hiding out, guarding the hearth and taking care of the babies, i’ve found myself smiling over the simple things-like earlier on a terrace with an iced coffee writing letters and before that, air drying on the couch with the rottweiler and bojack horseman.

we never really change who we are, and here’s another example of phil’s long-standing feelings on young talented ballers:

“Everywhere he went, he was surrounded by a squadron of bodyguards and ‘a personal entourage,’ who formed a cocoon around him that was difficult to penetrate.” (19)

hmm. sounds like a posse to me.

game on, players.