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”


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.


the women-hilton als

“i wasn’t supposed to be the only one here”

“she’s taking this one for the team, so i can make a fancy whore-derve”

what a great wraparound of amazing last weekend-from prison dancer being the show that i never knew i always wanted to be in to stonebowls at hapa izakaya and jojo (all the best parts of vancouver coming to me so i never have to go back to it) to the non-bio milfs that orbit samurai bambi and her badass mama. it really does take a village, both raising a child and staying happy and inspired in life. we all can’t be lil’ wayne’s babymamas, who are acting like some hip hop sisterwives, and who better to represent some sizzurp mormons to answer the five percenters? this book made my list because of the spillover of michael jackson retrospectives articles and my own personal nostalgia of vibe articles. i’m very glad that i read it, and stayed wondering which women? the whole way through.

She could not bear the false idea of happy families. To her, children who had grown up in a happy family inherited a tragic hope: that they could replicate their memory of familial unity in their own homes. But they never learned how, resisting any experience other than the categorically ‘wonderful’. She saw those children remain children as they complained about a world their parents never made, which, in turn, they could never inhabit.
She never used the sanctimonious tone of voice most women she knew used when they discussed their children; she disliked the morally ‘correct’ attitude most women she knew adopted after giving birth, dividing the world into those women who were ‘good’ because they had children and those women who were morally disreputable because they didn’t. She saw the issue of children as just one more opportunity for women to be competitive among themselves. Two reasons she had children were, one: an opportunity to experience unconditional love, and two: her curiosity about how lives get lived. With a child, who knew what would happen next?” (31)

“I was dwarfed my my mother’s spectacular sense of narrative and disaster; she could have been a great writer. I have never been comforted by the idea that writing her narrative down, in fragments, is at all equal to the power of her live-while-trying-not-to-experience. She is so interesting to me-as a kind of living literature. I still envy her allure.” (19)

“She spent many hours with me alone, in the dark, in her bedroom, listening to me lie. Somehow she knew that most writers become writers after having spent their childhood lying. Or perhaps she didn’t know that at all. She was extremely tolerant of my lies. She was interested in where my lies could take her.” (25)

“She did not like to see white people dance.

who’s your mama?

smile when you’re lying-chuck thompson

“you know this area is full of flight attendants, right? in my building alone, there’s 80 of us”

“i’m looking for something for my boyfriend-he hasn’t eaten all day. he’s allergic to nuts, but he’s black, so he likes chicken, haha.”

“that’s the kind of shit that makes you tired, you know? i was never this tired in trinidad.”

and the moral of the story is…don’t date white people (unless you’re white-then, go for it. more for you). it’s never worked out for me because invariably, some scenario like the middle quote arises, and someone gets accused of blowing things out of proportion or having a bad/negative attitude. customer service is also a place of occasionally being forced to be in relationships where you have to grin and bear it, and it’s nice to have multiple partners in this large dysfunctional relationship. barbara ehrenreich‘s talk on her book bright-sighted for the seattle public libray podcast was illuminating because it articulated that corporate structures are successful when people are kept unhappy (and feeling powerless) rather than experiencing actual job satisfaction and the space to be creative, that’s why entrepreneurs have their own category of business (and bankruptcy services). this one was a customer recommendation, and was a quick read that was interesting enough though rubbed me the wrong way with its flippant attitude towards “whores”.

“Those reflections piled up in notebooks and those notebooks eventually led to a dog-eared epiphany. I wanted to write about travel the way I experienced it, not the way the travel business wants readers, wants you, to imagine it is. The presumption that readers have the intellectual curiosity of a squirrel monkey and the moral range of an Amish yam farmer has worn thin. This book is a small effort to correct the travel industry’s bias against candor and honesty. Or at least a way to pay it back for both the good times and the trouble it’s given me.” (9)

“As one of Juneau’s handful of African Americans, Rob was affectionately known as ‘Rabdul,’ a brotherly rendering of his name in the grand tradition of it-isn’t-racist-it’s-funny racism. Rabdul didn’t seem to mind. He played along, even called himself Rabdul, though whether this was out of good humor or self-preservation in snow-white Alaska I don’t care now to speculate.” (59)

“If you aren’t tipping hotel maids, you need to start. Tipping is a lousy system-business owners should pay their employees a living wage, not force them to beg from paying customers for tips they ‘depend on to make a living’-but we’re stuck with it. As long as we are, it’s never criminal not to recognize that hotel maids work much harder than the valets, bellhops, and coffee slingers who get showered with tips every time they lift an eyebrow. Since maids generally exist farther down the socioeconomic ladder, they need the money more, anyway.” (217)

a big shoutout tonight to my coworkers this evening, some of my favorite folks, the couple that dropped off a red velvet cupcake for me last night (i don’t know who they are because they left it with one of my favorite coworkers who forgot it in his locker overnight and didn’t get their names) and one of my best mom and baby teams that stopped in to gift me with some gorgeous dark teal leather gloves that fit like…well, there’s a reason for the expression, right? i am a great-full jerk, really. i promise.

my infamous life (bonus)-prodigy with laura checkoway

i actually thought that i did this months ago, but i guess not. sometimes, books slip through the cracks-even for good readers. i didn’t include it in my count(down) for the column, so i’ll prolly just link it as a bonus sometime when i get to the end of the collection. here are the quotes that are the closest to interesting life lessons:

“My sensei had me cleaning the wood floor with a wet rag while barefoot in my uniform. This was for balance and stamina like in the movie Karate Kid-strength training. After two months, I got frustrated because I wasn’t learning to fight yet. I caught a sickle-cell crisis from that cold wet floor, and Moms said my karate lessons were over. Pops was pissed. ‘You’re turning him into a punk!’ he barked.” (7)

how very karate kid of you, prodigy san.

“Grandmoms bought this crazy gadget that’s supposed to put an end to bedwetting-a pair of padded underpants with a sensor in the crotch attached to a wire that attached to my pointer finger, powered by a nine-volt battery. As soon as you started pissing, the sensor made the finger attachment vibrate to wake you up: basically a pair of high-tech diapers. I felt like an idiot, but it was worth a try.

The first night I slept through the vibrating and woke up wiht the usual flood in my bed, my finger still vibrating when I woke up. We tried a few more nights to no avail. The gadget went into the garbage.” (9)

they should’ve tried the stadium pal, hey sedaris?

“In autumn 1996, almost half the 12th Street crew went to North Carolina to get out of New York for a few months. Most niggas went down South to hustle, but Havoc, Twin, Gotti, Godfather, Nitty, and I were there for a vacation and to get driver’s licenses for the first time. We couldn’t get them in New York because of our driving records. The DMV computers weren’t connected back then, so my New York record didn’t show up in North Carolina. And the test was easier down there-we got them in one day!” (100)

now this is innovative. and metrotextual. just sayin’.

the game-neil strauss

this is how much i loved everyone loves you when you’re dead. i’ve decided to read all the other books. the two most important things that i learned are: 1) men go through that SATC bullshit, too (supposedly become “empowered” by being single only to come to the happy ending of coupling) and 2) the vision of courtney love tearing through the house shoving lemonade down peoples’ throats is priceless. her whole chapter should be talked up a bit more in the 2011 book, just sayin’. once again, the format/quotes is second to none. especially funny is that i read this all over the place on sunday, and people probably mistook it as some kind of transit-based bible study.

and the moral of the story is:

“Men are not dogs. We merely think we are and, on occasion, act as if we are. But, by believing in our nobler nature, women have the amazing power to inspire us to live up to it. This is one reason why men tend to fear commitment-and sometimes, as in Mystery’s case, even rebel against it by endeavoring to bring out  the worst in a woman.” (375)

“This is a downside to casual sex: Sometimes it stops being casual. People develop a desire for something more. And when one person’s expectations don’t match the other person’s, then whoever holds the highest expectations suffers. There is no such thing as cheap sex. It always comes with a price.

I had violated one of Ross Jeffries’ only ethical rule of seduction: Leave her better than you found her.” (412)

kings of nonfiction-ed. ira glass

this american life, how do i love thee-let me count the ways…i’ll start by going to the library collections and check if your host has written any book. this is what i got, and here’s the malcolm gladwell article that’s been blowing my whole mind up right now:

from Malcolm Gladwell’s Six Degrees of Lois Weisberg:

“In general, people chose friends of similar age and race. But if the friend lived down the hall, both age and race became a lot less important. Proximity overpowered similarity. Another study, involving students at the University of Utah, found that if you ask someone why he is friendly with someone else he’ll say that it is because they share similar attitudes. But if you actually quiz the pairs of students on their attitudes you’ll find out that this is an illusion, and that what friends really tend to have in common are activities. We’re friends with the people we do things with, not necessarily with the people we resemble. We don’t seek out friends; we simply associate with people who occupy the same physical places we do: people in Omaha are not, as a rule, friends with people who live in Sharon, Massachusetts.” (69)

this sheds some light on how friends “grow apart” or stay perpetuating cycles of dysfunction.

“Your friends, after all, occupy the same world that you do. They work with you, or live near you, and go to the same churches, schools, or parties. How much, then, do they know that you don’t know? Mere acquaintances, on the other hand, are much more likely to know something that you don’t. To capture this apparent paradox, Granovetter coined a marvelous phrase: “the strength of weak ties.” The most important people in your life are, in certain critical realms, the people who aren’t closest to you, and the more people you know who aren’t close to you the stronger your position becomes.” (79)

“…all the countless other people in Lois’s circle needed to make only one phone call. They are well-off. The dropout wouldn’t even know where to start. That’s why he’s poor. Poverty is not deprivation. It is isolation.” (81)

again-i’ma be thinking this over for a minute now…

“The social instinct makes everyone seem like parts of a whole, and there is something very appealing about this, because it means that people like Lois aren’t bound by the same categories and partitions that defeat the rest of us. This is what the power of the people who know everyone comes down to in the end. It is not-as much as we would like to believe otherwise-something rich and complex, some potent mixture of ambition and energy and smarts and vision and insecurity. It’s much simpler than that. It’s the same lesson they teach in Sunday school. Lois knows lots of people because she likes lots of people. And all those people Lois knows and likes invariable like her, too, because there is nothing more irresistible to a human being than to be unqualifiedly liked by another.” (84)