Friday, December 18, 2009

DRAWING


Womanmanmules
Ink on board
20 x 15 ins.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

DRAWING


Men and Donkeys
Ink on board
20 x 15 ins.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

DRAWING


Women and Horses
Ink on board
20 x 15 ins.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

AWARE

You see her stuffing her thin arms into the sleeves of her red woollen cardigan, and she is across the inlet. She shouts "I'll come over soon" but you hear "It will be over soon." She comes near and you smell the Gauloises in her hair. You warm her cheek with the back of your left hand as she grasps your right. Her Revlon lips taste like plastic, her tongue nicotine and spearmint.

Friday, December 11, 2009

AWARENESS

The proximity of sense. To observe danger from afar to experience from within. The farthest distance to the nearest detail. The order of awareness. The distance of intimacy:

Sight
Sound
Smell
Touch
Taste

The ones to go, first to last; the ones to remain, last to first:

Sight
Sound
Smell
Touch
Taste

Monday, December 7, 2009

GRUMP

I wear my sunglasses during the dark night for the following reasons:

1. I like to.
2. They are prescription, and if I've been out all day, and day fades into night, my sunglasses usually, magically, remain stuck to my face.
3. Fuck off.

All you strangers who pass me by and mutter Corey Hart, I am tired of you.

Friday, November 6, 2009

'

Perhaps it was the messages on the road to look right and look left, or refusing to carry maps because she couldn't read them, or avoiding the Tube if Norman wasn't with her because how the hell would she know where to go and who the hell is she going to ask, or spending the past week in Shropshire in close communion with a dozen English speakers, or having taken a day trip to Aberystwyth where her son had exhausted his meagre capacity to translate between Kathy, himself, his father, his mother between Cantonese, English, and three words of Welsh, or finding Chinatown today where she could finally speak without effort, whatever it was that inspired grammatical clarity, at that moment, the mother used an apostrophe superbly.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

DÉJEUNER

Two hours to eat lunch in France? Are you fucking with me? Who is fucking with me?

That's incredible. That's my kinda pace. I never once felt rushed while eating in France, at both restaurants and friends' homes. Those of you who grumble mutter when dining with me 'cause I take fucking fore-e-e-v-e-e-r to eat a-a-anythi-i-i-ing*, consider it my gastronomic ballad to the French. They do it right.


* I can make a Kit-Kat last a month.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

SCHWARZE

"Here is lemon." She placed a fresh half-lemon in front of me as she set down my coffee, which I didn't understand, but then, this was my first time in Germany. I put stupendous amounts of sugar and copious amounts of cream in my coffee, but never a single pulp of lemon. I frowned puzzled. She grasped the lemon hemisphere and dribbled a trail around my wooden bench table, the path of citrus encircling my bowl of muesli and yogurt. "...And if the bees still don't stay away, just...," she dripped sour onto the furry back of a nibbling bee, "like that."

The portions were huge. My mound of muesli alone would have been enough to smoothe this hangover from a 7AM-night of no food and much, much weissbier. Maybe I shouldn't have ordered a saucer of sausage, cheese, bread, fruit and salad. And an egg. More for the bees, perhaps. They must have felt invited, the way they honed in on my berries. If they knew they weren't welcome, they didn't care, the way they attacked my little packet of honey. The bees were crashing my Berlin brunch by the dozen and I was armed with half a lemon. I dotted my table with more juice and they walked over the drops like I do rain puddles. I dripped their backs and they didn't mind. More bee comrades arrived at the party zzzzzing across my face. I swatted. "No, don't swat. Waft." My bandana-pigtailed server undulated her arm. "Or drip."

I didn't want to drip. These German bees had grown accustomed to the lemon and dripping them was fruitless. I glanced at the other diners savouring this gorgeous August noon in the shade on Choriner Strasse; their conversations flowed uninterruped by bees. Some squeezed lemon nonchalantly, others wafted at the insects gently, as if drawing up the aroma of delicious goulash. I noticed these Berliners had learned how to enjoy their food in the company of friends and bees: by accepting them. And so too would I. I also noticed every woman pushing a baby carriage in Mitte was hardly twenty-five.

I accepted the bees. Moreover, I befriended them. There was no need for six of them to cram themselves together, yellow-black butts throbbing, suckling at the teat that was a packet of honey open a sliver, no. My muesli was honeyed enough, so the rest shall be for bees. Let me help. I tilted the packet to spill forth a golden pool. More bees arrived. I accidentally dowsed one. His wings were syrupy. He tried to cross the glossy pond but one leg was deep in the stickiness. Then two legs. Then all six. He tried to beat his wings but nothing. Every step he'd take would be followed by a stumble. He was drowning in honey. I approached him with the prong of a fork to scoop him out, but his languid thrashing enveloped him in more thickness. I dripped on him, not with juice but water. A wing sprouted away from his abdomen. I dripped more water and the free wing sagged from the drenching. How could I help the guy? First I tried to feed him, then I tried to clean him, yet I had done nothing good. I was concerned for him; I am not a bee murderer. His cleansed wing then vibrated and I rejoiced privately, tentatively. He was still mired in sweet muck, advancing sluggishly, each step a labour. He tried to stay upright as a topple to the side would be execution. I would have poured more water on him but he needed his wing dry. A step. A step. Vibration. A step. He was free. Six minutes to cross two inches of honey.

He was out of the swamp but still in a bad way. One wing was adhered to his body and he was toppled unto himself, a clump of viscous insect. His comrades nibbled at his saccharine limbs, mandibles munching on the fallen friend, freeing him from his coat of honey. But were they helping? The exhausted bee struggled across the wooden table, fleeing from the others as they ravaged his body. They stopped cleansing him, stopped eating off him, allowed him to escape. Was he banished? Was he now deemed too weak to serve the community, a liability? He was not dead but merely covered in honey -- surely his comrades would understand the folly and forgive him, no? If you give him a chance, he will fly. But the bees took no interest in him, only in the berries upon my yogurt and the puddle of honey inches away from my sausages. The unfortunate bee stopped at the edge of the bench. He was less sticky, but he was ostracised. Then he fell.

At this point I knew water was in order. I dribbled onto the concrete where he had fallen three feet yet remained upright and alive. I believed I was replicating rain, and bees know how to deal with rain, yes? He freed his adhered wing, which soon vibrated. Where his legs had been bound, the drops of water now provided him with six distinct, separate legs. He crawled with renewed ease to the plaster exterior of Schwarze Pumpe and climbed the side of the café. I returned with relief to my coffee and flaccid half-lemon. Ate some sausage. Ate some cheese. A mighty spoonful of muesli. Two twenty-three-year-old mothers gossiped while pushing perambulators. I looked at the plaster and the bee had gone.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

HAUPTBAHNHOF

I almost caused a bomb scare in Berlin. I was mad hungry at Berlin Hauptbahnhof, waiting for my train to Amsterdam. My duffle bag weighed as much as five toddlers and the food joints were down the stairs. I also needed cash. The ATM was also down the stairs. I set my duffle on the platform and scurried to the floor below. I guess I didn't need to rush after all 'cause the guy ahead of me in the queue seemed to be consulting the ATM for mortgage advice. Or something. After a good five minutes of impatient huffing I finally got my chance to stuff some Euros in my money clip. I bought some food at LE CROBAG, which has a croissant in the logo but I didn't get a croissant.

Up the stairs. I recognised the back of the large female Hbf employee whose name tag read C. Wirtz and who had helped me earlier: "Ja, Platform 13 to Amsterdam." Now she was talking into a cell phone and still wearing her nifty cap. She was staring at the ground, a large perimeter of passengers' feet keeping clear of the area where her gaze fell. I walked straight into the middle. She hung up. "Is that your bag?"
"Yeah," I panted.
"You can't leave your bag!"
Um...
She thrust her head at me and exploded her arms, "It could be a BOMB!"
Shit. She's allowed to say that out loud?
"But my bag is so heavy and I am so hungry..."
"I called the police."
Shit. I showed her my LE CROBAG bag of packaged salad that had corn niblets nestled between tomato chunks.
"You can't leave your bag."
"Sorry. Danke," I pleaded. She walked away, leaving me alone with my duffle and the disdain from a horde of Germans tsk-tsking at the strange Chinese kid who speaks North American. I'm glad I was wearing my sunglasses. I heaved my sack over my shoulder with an exaggerated oof! to let them know I wasn't playing around when it came to heavy duffles. I trudged down Platform 13, down down down, far far far from them all. At least I'd managed to get my salad for the ride, and it had corn.

The Hbf woman approached me on her surveillance beat. She gave me a pursed smile and wagged her finger. I smirked back, sheepish and foreign. Her name was probably Claudia.

Monday, September 7, 2009

PONG

[Words in bold are in English. Everything else is Cantonese.]

My mom is a ping-pong champion.

ME: Mom, in Berlin they got ping-pong tables in the park. You just bring your own balls and paddles.

MOM: We have that all over China.

ME: I never seen that in Canada.

MOM: The tables are concrete.

ME: Yeah, that's what I saw in Berlin. How do you say "Berlin"?

MOM: Berlin.

ME: What?

MOM: Berlin.

ME: Berlin.

MOM: It's the city that was divided...

ME: Yeah...

MOM: East... West...

ME: Yeah.

MOM: ...the Wall came down...

ME: ...Twenty years ago.

MOM: Now it's all West.

She means non-Communist.

ME: The city feels new, all the buildings... new. During the war--

MOM: Yes.

ME: During the war it got flattened. The British... how do you say "bombed"?...

MOM: Bombed.

ME: Seventy percent.

MOM: [scowling] The British are the worst with that...

ME: Mmh...

MOM: Look at New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong... all these places they forced themselves on...

She sips her soup.

ME: India.

MOM: India.

I eat some noodles.

MOM: You just wait. Soon China will be on top.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

STRAAT

Sex was slowing down on Monday 2.03AM in the RLD. I wanted to bid adieu to Amsterdam with swan song seedy exploration, but the windows had grown tiresome and every shop boasting Flesh Lights was rolling down riot screens. Even the peep shows were blocked off for their bleaching. So I said, "Fuck this sex stuff, I'd rather eat."

I went to Kebab House of Halal Food. Man that salad tasted great.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

PANNEKOEK

The Dutch are the tallest people in the world. After stuffing myself with 3/4 of a pannekoek for brunch in Amsterdam, where I wanted to order a glass of milk but forgot, I had to use the urinal on tip-toe.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

SASKIA

They were Chinese dudes, probably. Asian some-sort. Five of them clustered on the slick cobble of a wet night under Amsterdam's red lights. American maybe. Maybe Canadian. The accent.

"...So how long did it last?" said one.

"Ten minutes," said the tallest.

"TEN MINUTES!?"

Pause.

"That's how long I paid for."

Pause.

"...So what else happened?"

Monday, July 27, 2009

10W-40

I sell brake pads for Ford F-150s and tires for Toyota Corollas. Naw, you'll want 10W-40, not 10W-30 'cause the... uh... viscosity something um. Trust me. I have a computer that tells me these things. I got WHMIS.

At our training session the mechanic -- who looks like a Tamil Wheels (Degrassi, Jesus...) -- tells us to treat the battery lovingly, and don't connect this connector to that connector or the battery will lose its charge "dramastically".

It's 1996 and I'll be graduating high school this year, what. I've got a job at Canadian Tire, word. I've got a job selling you auto parts. At the end of the night, if you peep me while I'm restocking shelves with motor oil, you'll see me I'm in the stock room curling boxes of 10W-40 as I carry them out to the floor. At least 20 pounds, those boxes. At least 10 reps. I've got a mad crush on this cutie from another school and she likes biceps.

Me. Selling YOU. Auto parts.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

CHOKE

Naw, it's gotta go, man. It's just not cool anymore. It hasn't been cool in mad long. That whole I'm gonna drink this drink and you're gonna say something shocking and I'm gonna choke and/or geyser it outta my mouth onto your face like a spritzer... and the audience is gonna laugh... Naw man, it's gotta go. Like in (500) Days of Summer, when Zooey Deschanel says she was known as "Anal Girl", and guy next to her chokes on his Long Island iced tea or whatever... tasty lemonade or whatever... I didn't laugh. Shit's supposed to be funny but it's played out. Cliché. Look, no one chokes when in mid-drink, no matter how shocking the news. You know what you do when you're sipping Snapple and someone says, "'Sup, I'm Anal Girl"? You stop sipping. You pause. Process the information. Proceed. Not spit up, you baby. That joke ain't funny anymore. Stop it. Jack Tripper mastered that joke in 1982 and no one does food gags better than Jack Tripper. It went to comedy heaven with him.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

WAFERS

I don't remember his name but he was a good ol' Canadian kid with lots of Richard Scarry books and lived on William Street with his good ol' white family. Anglo-Saxon. Maybe Protestant. He was an early friend and maybe his name was Chris. That's a good name for someone like him. He knew me as Norman, which of course is my name but I'm also Lup-Man. Four years before I met him, I was pooping my cloth diapers in a village in China. I met him in kindergarten.

Chris was having a birthday party, the first birthday party that I'd ever been invited to. What is this "birthday party"? What do we do? "Mom, my friend up the block is having a 'birthday party' and I think I'm supposed to give him something."

"That's nice. What are we supposed to give?"

"I dunno, but it's gotta be soon. The party is now."

"Oh. Well..." My mom searched the kitchen cupboards. I guess we could have given him fruit, but that'd be the bummest gift of all bum gifts. I guess we could have given him money in a red envelope but he wouldn't understand, and besides, we didn't have money to give. "You can give him this," my mom beamed triumphantly as she pulled a package of wafers from the top shelf. "They're very good." It was Garden brand. It was strawberry. It was unopened.

My mom escorted me up the block as I clutched the wafers at my chest, wrapped in a plastic bag with the slogans of an herb store in Chinatown. Not even wrapped, just... bundled.

As we walked up the steps the shrieking of jubilant five-year-olds got louder. I knocked, the door opened, and the squeals were intense. Chris's mom greeted us with a smile, "Are you Norman?"

"Uh-huh. We're here for the 'birthday party'. This is my mom."

"Hello!" my mom said in the broken English she had just learned.

I held out the crinkly package proudly, with both hands. "This is for Chris."

"Oh!" the mom said with modest, if not fake, surprise. "Chris! Your friend is here!" Chris came bounding to the door, his head sweaty. "Norman and his mom brought you a gift!"

"What is it what'd you get me?" he panted. He unravelled the bag -- the easiest unwrapping he'd performed -- and pulled out the treat.

"Ooh, cookies!" his mom chimed. Chris dumped the wafers back into the bag, handed it to his mom, and ran back into the house to join the squealing. "Thank you," she said politely.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

SCOUNDREL

At fifteen he is mischievous.

In his twenties he is an asshole.

In his thirties he is spiteful.

In his forties he is malicious.

In his fifties he has no friends.

In his sixties he is regretful.

In his seventies he is forgiven or murdered.

The murder may happen earlier.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

EAT

Just so you know, I can out-eat almost anyone.

...And you can quote me on that, but do mind your syntax, you saucy buggers.

Monday, May 25, 2009

LIP

...something mundane, like, "What happened to your lip? There's blood. Did you cut yourself? Did you get-- You didn't get hit, did you?" And all it is is that you yawned mightily while your lips were dry.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

NEWS

The bad news: Complacency kills ambition.

The good news: Ambition kills complacency.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

CAPRICE

The radio-show debate is about whether or not a certain rapper is still relevant.

When we call someone irrelevant we are not saying he is no longer important -- we are saying he no longer matters. His very existence is not necessary to us, currently. He is ineffective.

How fickle of us.

To be deemed irrelevant is to be damned.

Friday, May 15, 2009

FLIES

It is spring and warm. Tiny flies have returned. They provide me company and annoy me from darkness to sun's peeking. Those that are alive dash themselves into my lamp, their bodies tapping against the paper shade like the slightest hail against skylight. Those that are dead cluster themselves in piles in every crevice by the bulb. Those that are between death and life writhe, wings quivering wavering with the gentle sway of bonito flakes on rice. They'll be dead soon. While their legs twitch their last twitches they are in ecstasy. The incandescent bulb is their heroin their coke their Gauloises their absinthe their music. Dying from what they lived for. Knowing the light will kill them. Spasms of passion. Purposeful end. Happily dead. I should get a screen for my window.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

REDREAM

A LIST OF WHAT WILL NEVER HAPPEN - Draft 1
A black prime minister of Canada.
A woman prime minister of Canada.
An openly gay prime minister of Canada.
An atheist prime minister of Canada.
A Jew prime minister of Canada.
A Muslim prime minister of Canada.
A Chinese prime minister of Canada.
An aboriginal prime minister of Canada.
An immigrant prime minister of Canada.
A disabled prime minister of Canada.
A left-Left prime minister of Canada.
A hockey legend prime minister of Canada.
An intellectual celebrity prime minister of Canada.
A caribou prime minister of Canada.
Another Trudeau.


A LIST OF WHAT WILL NEVER HAPPEN - Draft 2
A black prime minister of Canada.
An openly gay prime minister of Canada.
A Jew prime minister of Canada.
A Muslim prime minister of Canada.
A Chinese prime minister of Canada.
An aboriginal prime minister of Canada.
An immigrant prime minister of Canada.
A left-Left prime minister of Canada.
A hockey legend prime minister of Canada.
Another Trudeau.


A LIST OF WHAT WILL NEVER HAPPEN - Draft 3
A left-Left prime minister of Canada.


A LIST OF WHAT WILL NEVER HAPPEN - Final Draft







Wednesday, May 13, 2009

UNDREAM

A LIST OF WHAT WILL NEVER HAPPEN - Draft 1
A black president of America.
A woman president of America.
An openly gay president of America.
An atheist president of America.
A Jew president of America.
A Chinese president of America.
A dog president of America.
A disabled president of America.


A LIST OF WHAT WILL NEVER HAPPEN - Draft 2
A woman president of America.
An openly gay president of America.
A Jew president of America.
A Chinese president of America.
A dog president of America.


A LIST OF WHAT WILL NEVER HAPPEN - Final Draft
An openly gay president of America.
An atheist president of America.
A Chinese president of America.
A dog president of America.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

PORK

The thing about racism is that sometimes it's funny. And that's the thing about growing up in the inner city like I did (yes, I officially did, like, civic designation. I'm not just saying that to be hardcore). Sure, the horror about living in the city is that tons of races get mashed together so gangs get formed based on ethnic camaraderie and then all of a sudden you can't wear purple to Metrotown unless you're Latino, and you're gonna look don't-belong in a Lee Storm Rider unless you're Italian Portuguese Greek White, and all of a sudden you're gonna get swarmed 'cause the Chinese and Vietnamese dudes don't fight one-on-one. Remember Asian Youth Gangs? Don't fuck with them. But the beauty about living in the city is that tons of races get mashed together and you become tolerant. You become so sensitive to the minutely detailed, subtly layered, colourfully nuanced, innumerable variations of racism that in fact, you become desensitised. Tough, colourful skin. You learn quickly the fine degrees between what's sincerely offensive and what's merely clowning. Growing up where I did, going to the schools I went, it was easy to not get offended. The thing wasn't about deep-seated hate -- it was about affectionate aggravation.

So Nick called me a chink and Sunny a pun. And Sunny called me a chink and I called him a pun. We didn't know what to call Nick besides Fuck Off. As retaliation we would give each other the beats. Not hardcore beats, just a medium-deft fist to the back and a noogie and "Don't call me chink, you pun!" Then we'd return to Nintendo. We were buddies. But that's the thing: among pals you can be racist 'cause there's an understanding that we're not really racists. It's the way we talk, and it's special. We also knew discretion, and not to call any random guy a chink 'cause you'd get swarmed. Remember Asian Youth Gangs? Selective, affectionate, non-racist racism. That's the thing when you grow up on a block where every household speaks a different language for reals. It was our vernacular.

It wasn't always fair. Nick knew full well that saying "chink" and "pun" in the wrong company would get him shanked, so when he called me and Sunny those flammable names, he'd digress with a point to his Benfica t-shirt and say, "It's okay. Go ahead and call me pork-and-cheese."

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

WOUNDS

When we were eight, Stephen-who-was-always-grounded scraped his palm pretty awful. He stuck out his hand to let his Weimaraner lap up the blood and gravel. "It'll heal faster," said Stephen-who-sat-atop-his-wooden-fence-to-chat-with-us-when-grounded. I doubted him but never cared to investigate his medical procedure. I surely never tested his treatment on myself. I didn't really understand Stephen-who-peed-in-a-girl's-mouth sometimes, anyway. Twenty-two years later, as moments ago I pondered the San Jose Sharks losing to the Anaheim Ducks and licking their wounds, I finally get Stephen.

It was consensual and they were kindergarteners, the peeing.

I really like cats. I wish I weren't allergic.

I used to be a hockey fan like really bad.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

WIMP

Chinese boys. I see you. Hanging on to your Chinese girlfriends. I walk by an ATM today and there you are, your arm 'round the waist of your girlfriend while she's taking out money. Are you protecting her? You're inside a vestibule. You're the only ones in there. I think she's safe, guy. I turn my head and behind me, as we cross the street, there's another one of you with your arm 'round the waist of your girlfriend. I don't think she needs help crossing the street, guy. She's nineteen. Do you need support? I don't think so: You look healthy. Yo, I seen you latched on to your girlfriend like a knapsack as she's trying to walk, and she's trudging laboured 'cause she's got a 145-pound human attached to her back. She's dragging you. She don't look too pleased. And you? You look like a baby. You are abscess. You are The Weak. You are The Emasculated. That's wrong, guy. You are an almost-adult. In some cases, you are an adult. Take your arm off of her. Let her walk. Let her be.

...Chinese boys...

Thursday, April 9, 2009

DRAWING


Untitled

Printed in Eye Weekly, April 9 - April 15, 2009

Sunday, April 5, 2009

POETRY

Can you create poetry? No. You can only guide a person, suggest some words, present some images, offer a few melodies. That person will tell you if the pieces amount to poetry or if you have merely recommended words, images, melodies, moments, fragments. You can only lead a person to what you hope will be poetic. Poetry is determined by the recipient.

Saying you created poetry is like saying you created an epiphany. That is impossible.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

POETRY

...but I don't mean poetry in the literary sense. I mean communication that transcends the limitations of the medium. Lyricism with the camera, a moment on stage that makes you ache. Seeing the invisible. Listening to images. Speaking what words can not. Marcello Mastroianni shouting to the girl on the beach in the final moments of La Dolce Vita.

That is the poetry for which we can strive.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

STRENGTH

My Speedball pen remains dunked in the jar where Unico olives once nestled. The black water is still, undisturbed, keeping mum the two-week secret that the C6 nib no longer holds ink, encrusted in rust.

Greasy dishes teeter in precarious mismatched stacks, the Lee Kum Kee sauces now impenetrable, some flaking. No clean cutlery. I must reach into the bowels of the drawer to yank out third-string forks, undesireable because of their ostentatious design. I prefer simple. The dishwasher is empty.

Lying on cool tiles gazing at the toilet. On my side. On my back is too many spins. Four glasses of shiraz and three Dos Equis too many.

I tell myself: You've done worse. You've been worse. The dishes will get scrubbed. The nib will get replaced. You will wake up not on the floor, but in your bed. You can sleep in if you want to.

Friday, March 27, 2009

BAR

Two of my favourite words are "open" and "bar". When used separately those words mean little to me, but when used together they equal magic.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

DRAWING


Untitled
Ink on board
11 x 8.5 ins.

Printed in Eye Weekly, March 19 - March 25, 2009

Thursday, March 12, 2009

INDIA

Dear India,

I love you. I love your culture. I love your people. They have a deep and influential place in my life. I can not, and would not want to, imagine growing up without Indians near and dear to me. My second friend of all time was Daljit. I was four, he was older. We were friends when I lived on William Street in East Vancouver. He lived a block away. We kicked a soccer ball around lots. Daljit had a red pleather jacket with tons of zippers and I was so impressed that he could Beat It. I ate laddu at Daljit's. He was an early buddy. I'm talking '82, '83. At that time, the plot of land next to my house was being built upon by Indian house-builders. They didn't speak English, my mom didn't speak English, and I could hardly speak anything intelligible. My mom made Chinese lunches for them and we would all sit in the sun eating dumplings together, talking in smiles. And then I moved to another neighbourhood in East Vancouver where I became buddies with Sunny. Now, he was a pal. He lived up the alley and if you total up the amount of hours we spent together, we're talking months on end. The trio was me, Sunny, and Nick. Sunny was way ahead of everyone 'cause he had a Commodore 64. He introduced us to California Games and taught us that in order to erase a 5 1/4" floppy disk, you could stomp on it. His grandfather didn't speak English but he welcomed us into his basement workshop where we watched him make gold jewelery. His grandfather served us chai from a pot, so deliciously authentic and untainted by the words "bar" or "ista". We boys would watch Beverly Hills Teens together. Sunny played for us a wicked bhangra tape called Beat the Rap by Dal. He taught us how to say "come here" in Punjabi. Our friendship was based on camaraderie and torment. Nick and I ceaselessly did dumb shit to Sunny, like sneaking up the back stairs to his bathroom window, which was open a crack while he showered, and we'd throw garbage in. One time, Sunny's relatives were visiting and parked their car in the back driveway. The hood ornament was hooked up to the horn to prevent theft, so Nick and I tied super-long twine to the shiny chrome piece, unraveled the twine across the intersection and half a block down our alley, and pulled. Nick and I did way more dumb shit -- both to Sunny and with Sunny -- but if I recounted all that dumb shit I'd be writing more pages than Paradise Lost. My only excuse is that we were young. Sorry, Sunny. You were a great pal. We were pals for years.

I had tons more Indian buddies after Sunny. I had crushes on Indian girls. Up my block are tons of Indian businesses: jewelers, grocery stores, restaurants, clothing shops, video stores. I played pinball under images of Ganesh and a cloud of incense. I was always impressed that the only Vancouverites I'd see wearing traditional clothing were Indians. I grew up among a whirlwind of saris. One of my favourite filmmakers is Satyajit Ray. One of my favourite accents is Indians speaking English. India, I love you.

But you're making my arms go akimbo and I'm grumbling hmmmm... You see, many years ago I started seeing change. When I was watching In Living Color, Martin, Roc, Living Single, and Arsenio in the same season, my adolescent heart cried out, "Yes! The Blacks have made it!" Then I watched House of Buggin' and I was all, "Yes! The Latinos have made it!" Then I watched All-American Girl and I was like, "YES! The Asians have made it!" ...Okay, I might have fudged the details a bit there 'cause Margaret Cho's show aired before John Leguizamo's, but nonetheless, Nielsen ratings and open eyes support my argument: in terms of prevalence in mainstream American and Canadian media, the list goes White, Black, Latino... then maybe Asian. Maybe.

True, that hierarchy might not be so accurate with Canadian media because we don't have the same Hispanic population as America, but since we're fed so much American stuff, I'll work with that list and continue... SO, the Latinos started looking familiar on screens. That is, I stopped noticing that many actors in movies and on T.V. were in fact Hispanic. It's now a non-issue. From my Chinese-North American perspective, the Latinos have made it. Who's next? Asians? Maybe. Maybe I mean East Asians. I'm not so sure anymore.

From unbiased observation, I noticed an East Asian presence sprouting up substantially in the mainstream. Thanks, Lucy Liu and Ming-Na Wen. If East Asians hadn't yet made it in the mid-late-'90s, I could sense those sprouts getting ready to bloom. Now, ten years later, we can add Sandra Oh to that mainstream echelon (all women, but we can talk about exotification, fetishisation, and emasculation of Asians another time), but still, East Asians on screens are not a non-issue. They are noticeable: "Hey, lookit her on screen: She's Chinese." We probably don't say that out loud anymore, but we make note, even if briefly. No, ethnic invisibility is not a mark of making it, but East Asians certainly haven't made it as ubiquitously as the Latinos have. Not yet. I've been waiting... waiting for a Chinese J.Lo... waiting for a Japanese Denzel... waiting for a Korean The Wire... waiting... small... steps... yellow... head... hurting... glass... ceiling...

...and now: INDIA! You're EVERYWHERE! Since when how hmmmm... I don't see a Little Shinto Temple on the Prairie. Where's the Taiwanese Russell Peters? Beijing has slums, some dogs, and plenty of millionaires. Remember "China Rising"? That was the headline across the world everywhere a few years ago. The CBC made a documentary called China Rising. Now it's got one called India Reborn. What gives? We Chinese have been patiently pushing the boulder up the hill, the rise no longer so steep, nearer and nearer the top, but I have a feeling you're already there on lunch break eating the world's biggest democratic roti. We will ask you, "How'd you get here so fast?" And you will reply, "We worked smarter, not harder. We have tech support. Would you like a hand, China? Or should I say... Sisyphus?" India, you're turning me into a big wonton ball of chagrin and I don't want to roll backward.

The lightning had etched it into the sky: China Rising. Thunder was nigh, a boom so mighty to rumble away the giant's slumber. Just as the Middle Kingdom was to wrap up its last R.E.M., the thunder will be reported missing. At that moment, the world will say, "So... What's up with China?" And at that moment, a billionaire IT mogul riding his private Learjet from Beijing to Mumbai -- to check up on his latest pet project blockbuster movie -- before his final destination in Delhi to deliver a powerful package, will whip out his BlackBerry and text to the world: "I've got the thunder." Then he will go vote.

India, I should have seen it coming once you guys reached one billion. Your people at home and abroad make amazing art, film, and theatre. Your authors are incredible. Your music is sublime. I've seen Indians on Coronation Street. You've made it. ...Well, almost. I now see South Asians all the time on American and Canadian mainstream media, but you are as noticeable as East Asians: "Hey, lookit her on screen: She's Indian." It would be a shame for your ethnicity to become invisible, but wouldn't it be nice to have a South Asian Sean Penn -- in America -- and no one remarks that he's brown? No, America does not yet have an Indian In Living Color, but neither does it have a Chinese. We both have to get our House of Buggin' first.

As much as China and you, India, are the world's most popular kids and everyone wants to be our friends, and though our economic thunder is shaking up the globe, we are but mere shouts on American and Canadian screens. We are still only lightning to the western mainstream, our presence comes in flashes, and I am waiting for our rumble.

We are 1/3 of the world. Let's join our billions of hands together, teach each other how to say "superpower" in Hindi and Mandarin. I'll remind myself that it's not a competition. Our cultures are older than hell. We've both been "inconvenienced" by the British. We have similar struggles. In America and Canada, your success is my success. I love you, India. I love your people. You've been a good friend all my life. I shake my head at you not in dismay, but in amazement. How do I say "I am jealous" in Punjabi? Does it sound anything like "I am intimidated" in Urdu?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

SMILE

Fuck you. You piece of shit stain I wish you'd been aborted. :)

But not really. I don't really mean "Fuck you", more like "Dang you!" or "Grrr...You!" And I'm quite happy you were born. Don't get offended. If I'd really meant to hurt you I wouldn't have smiled. "Fuck you. You piece of shit stain I wish you'd been aborted." ...Wow, that looks so mean. Maybe I should put the smiley back in to take the edge off so you'll understand that I'm only mildly annoyed, and my attack was actually meant to be an aw-shucks punch in the arm. Don't you see the irony? Are you getting confused? Maybe I shouldn't have made that statement in the first place.

Yes, that is the answer: Don't say anything unless you mean it. Indeed, adding :) ;) :( :| or :\ colours the statement to clarify our tone, but it's a lazy form of clarity. Emoticons attempt to approximate the nuances of speaking in person, where what we say is finely adjusted by how we say it: "Fuck you" with a wink means something different than "Fuck you" with furrowed brow; we can express that through typing as "Fuck you ;)" or "Fuck you >:|". But really, who wants to read that? Has this pesky phenomenon infiltrated us so deeply that our handwritten letters are a combination of text and drawn happy faces? Oh wait... who writes handwritten letters any more? I fear the day when students riddle their academic papers with :). I fear that that day has already arrived. I urge teachers and editors to reject the use of emoticons in written materials unless that material is casual and on MSN, lest hell run rampant. But really, we've been in hell since we learned to txt how r u 2 each other, and all I can do is LOL. IMHO. We now have a zeitgeist malady known as BlackBerry Thumb, where people's fingers, hands, and necks are aching from too much texting. To combat this ergonomic epidemic we've been advised to forsake proper spelling and use abbreviations. I'd rather break my thumbs.

There was a time when our written communication was more considered, more precise and deliberate. Irony was expressed through careful and artful rhetoric instead of emoticons. We relied on our proficiency with plain speak rather than short-hand trifles. We were less lazy not long ago. We now lack conviction, where we add :) after "I look forward to seeing you" for extra enthusiasm, as if the :) suggests a deeper level of sincerity. Another form of this thin profundity is !!!!!!!!!!, which suggests extra extra extra excitement. Whether it's :) or !!!!!!!!!! the intention is the same: we want the reader to understand that we are excessively thrilled to see them. In practice, the appendages suggest a mistrust between writer and reader; the writer attempts to narrow the risk of misinterpretation and believes the emoticon and abundant punctuation will clarify their attitude. On the other hand, a statement stated simply honours the intelligence of the reader and trusts that interpretation will be accurate. How lovely: "I look forward to seeing you."

As much as the computer has evolved our language, keeping it vital and adaptable, it has also drained our confidence. Word processors have plunged us into a cut-and-paste purgatory, where a final draft is produced only after thousands of strokes of the delete key. When we write with a word processor, we are performing a textual hem-and-haw. Time and effort is wasted as we labour endlessly with on-the-spot revisions. We doubt ourselves. We suffer from indecision. Why? Because we can. We have no risk. Computers have made our actions correctable; we approach tasks with a wish-washy attitude. One analogy of how technology has corrupted our conviction is filmmaking. When we make movies with film, we shoot fewer takes because film is expensive. When we make movies with digital video, we are tempted to shoot innumberable takes because tapes are (generally) cheaper than film. When we use computers for writing, filmmaking, drawing, designing, photographing... we feel less pressure to get it right the first time. Oh, Undo, you are our best friend and best fiend.

The overwhelming majority of the world's great literature -- and horrible literature, too -- was written by hand and pen on paper. Certainly handwritten works also undergo numerous drafts and revisions, but the process of writing by hand -- rather than by word processor -- affords a clarity, an efficiency, a concision that computers have befuddled. Douglas Coupland stated that he enjoys writing by hand because he considers himself lazy, and using a pen requires physical effort. In order to avoid crippling his hand, he would rather write as few words as necessary. This so-called laziness forces his mind to think clearly so that he can write concisely.

Writing by hand means making visible, often indelible marks. There is permanence in writing by hand, which means the stakes are higher. When we write "I didn't mean to offend you :)", the emoticon behaves as a delete key, providing the writer with a safety net so as to really not offend the reader: Here is a smiley-face to delete any remnant of offense in case you are still offended (even though "I didn't mean to offend you" should be clear enough, but y'know, I don't really trust your interpretation of my statement so... here's a smiley-face. Just in case). The same occurs with "Fuck you :)" -- the smiley-face deletes sincerity. Emoticons and computers encourage passive aggressiveness, where we say something impassioned but undermine it (or overcompensate) with superfluous icons and abbreviations. I would rather receive "I love you" than "i luv u".

It's far too easy to send texts and e-mails. The act of communication has become disposable; therefore, our words have become disposable. Moreover, our actions have become disposable. We have become aggressively passive. We lack conviction in our actions and have weakened our determination. I admit that I now socialise with less effort than years ago. When I go to a party, I no longer feel the same pressure as before to make the best impression (whatever that is) or have the fullest conversation (whatever that is) with a person. And if I leave without saying goodbye, or that person leaves before I can say farewell, I am not worried. I can find them on Facebook the next day to say goodbye or hello or punctuate an encounter that was left elliptical. You do it too :(.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

USAIN

"She's a force of nature."

That is the ultimate sweeping compliment. What about a person warrants the praise of all praises? Her ability to listen? Her generosity? Her charisma that detonates every one of our senses, like a supernova, when she enters a room and offers a mere smile? When we call someone a force of nature, we cannot determine exactly why we compare her to the very state of being, the very idea of being alive. The statement itself glorifies generality: She is beyond definition. Nothing is greater than nature.

It is easier to understand the statement when we remark on someone's physical excellence. Usain Bolt is a force of nature because he is faster than wind. He is a natural phenomenon like tectonic plates shifting three millimeters beneath our feet, and everything, absolutely everything, must succumb. Perhaps all elite athletes are forces of nature because they are stronger, they are healthier, they are more determined, more indestructible than you and me. Everyone else.

Then what about artists whom we describe as forces of nature? Do we praise them on their corporeal achievements, as if Hemingway's ability to type and Pollock's elbow arc are qualities to celebrate? No. Hemingway's words, Pollock's drips, Gehry's forms, Joni Mitchell's lyrics... The things they make are what awe us like Vancouver's backdrop. And when it is Joni's voice -- certainly a bodily wonder -- that moves us, still, we are celebrating the melodies she makes. Forces of nature who are not athletes elevate that compliment to extreme conceit; James Dean may not run faster than the wind, but his performances wrench our insides like cedar snapping in a gale. Ozu may not grapple with the strength of a grizzly, but his films calm us like a lone shrub in the midst of desert. There is specialness to an artist being called a force of nature because we do not usually associate one with the physical and the natural. Artists make things, even intangible things like a moment on stage or an emotion on guitar. When we say one artist is a force of nature, we are saying her work is beyond normal human ability, beyond human manufacture, worthy of being on par with the clouds.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

SADNESS

I am sad
that when I say to kids
born in the 90s,
The Karate Kid*,
they will respond
WTF,
or more damning:
:|



*This is a multi-purpose poem. To suit mood and taste, like the day of the month advancing in the little window upon an analog watch face, The Karate Kid can be substituted with Alfonso Ribeiro, A.C. Slater, Punky Brewster, "Did I do that?", Brian Orser, import CD, Freedom Williams, encyclopedias, Ramona Quimby, Consumers Distributing, Colgate pump, The Zit Remedy, Danny DeVito, Amiga, Max Headroom (freaked me out), Grace Jones (freaked me out), Launchpad McQuack, Greg Louganis, Arsenio Hall's signature, Bugle Boy, Mike's buddy Boner, Bobby McFerrin, "Don't be ridiculous!" (you wish, Balki), newspaper classifieds, Bo knows everything including your mother, "Cut...it...out", Huxtable anything, the Fly Girls, cooking entire meals from scratch with microwave, My Little Pony, VCRs, Kevin Arnold, Jimmy's beef jerky, Rodney King, film developing, Leisure Suit Larry, Jack's buddy Larry, Tom Hanks in prime-time drag, anonymity, Sade, Ikeda overalls, pen pals, pagers, privacy, and ColecoVision.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

YOUTH

I often got confused when I was sixteen.

"Yeah, so the guy called me a Pun and went into the Sev. So we waited outside, 'round the corner, like, you know, on 37th, waited for the guy to come out. Comes out with a fuckin' Slurpee and we pound him, fucker. I got him like this, right, like this, holding his head down and kneeing him in the face. C. takes out his little scissors, you know the little Chink scissors, folding?, we use for weed... So C. takes 'em out and shanks him. But just a little bit. Few holes. Not too much. Pink Slurpee all over the sidewalk," D. says, rocking his heels while seated on his BMX. "So now C.'s gotta do YDC."

I don't get it: Why would he sign up for Young Drivers of Canada?

D. spits on the grass. "He'll get out in a few months."

Oh. Youth Detention Centre.

Friday, January 30, 2009

CITY

Open.

The Vietnamese restaurant by my Vancouver crib is always open, twenty-four hours. They weren't always. Many years ago they were open regular boring hours, then experimented with being always open on weekends, then for the last few years have remained open always. When I was eating there on a 3AM Thursday January morning, customers were arriving every ten minutes, welcomed by the Euro-thump techno that is commonplace at such restaurants; I finished my No. 10 to a Chipmunks-on-methamphetamines-in-Ibiza version of "Funky Town". The music is appropriate because in this restaurant, any time is a good time for a pho dance party. 3AM might as well be 3PM.

The moment this restaurant decided to go twenty-four hours was the moment they contributed to Vancouver's status as a real city. A real city is always open. A real city is a gathering of un-like-minded people. A real city understands that although the majority of its inhabitants are forced to (unwillingly) wake up at 7AM, an enormous minority put their heads to bed at that same time. The key is population. Let's say 10% of human beings -- regardless of their occupation -- prefer going to sleep at 5AM. These late-night prowlers need cafés to write their manifestos at, grocery stores to buy gai-lan at, pharmacies to buy lubricant at. In a town of 10,000 people, the 1000 owls aren't reason enough to stay open past 10. But in a city of 1,000,000 people, there's gonna be 100,000 stragglers needing Astroglide and Chinese greens after writing their own private Das Kapital at 5AM. And in a city of 10,000,000... There's a city-within-a-city of people who ain't sleeping. Their night-time economy flourishes. Their stimulation won't rest.

Big cities don't only offer late-night eats; there are treats for people of every hour. Let's say 10% of a population want to see a ballet. 10% of a population want to see a low-budget film in a cinema. 10% of a population want to buy a Modernist credenza. 10% want Suicide albums on vinyl. 10% want to see a Kandinsky two inches from their nose. In a town of 10,000 people, the demands of a discerning 1000 simply aren't enough to warrant supply. And really, the percentage of a population that wants to listen to Suicide is more likely 0.5. So where does a person go to choose between Giselle or Mutual Appreciation after tweaking out on teak and digging a copy of -- yes, Suicide's 1/2 Alive -- out from the bin? The city. The bigger the better. The more.

More choices. More audiences. More tickets. More art supply stores. More book stores. More skin tones. More religions. More anti-religion. More languages. More homosexuals. More others. More debates. More tolerance. More styles. Of shoes. Of produce. Of performance. Of congee. Of tags. Of pop music. Of haircuts. Cyrillic and Braille. Urdu and Hebrew. Calypso and No Wave. The Chinese grocers who speak in a Trinidadian accent.

Don't give me no "Transit stops at 2AM." Don't give me no "Open 'til midnight." ...No. Always Be Open. This is a city.

But. I love visiting small towns. Like when we went to Owen Sound (pop. 21,753) and convinced Jamie to take us to Smugglers, where the Quebecoise dancer (one of only three dancers that night) promised to give us a group lap dance -- half of us were women -- but reneged when a dude offered her money for post-last-call private time... That shit was outta sight. And when we were in the farmers' market eating lovingly made sandwiches, the town crier pulled a chit from his basket and bellowed, "And the winner is... Carol the potter!" We cheered.

Like when we spent the night at a motel in Armstrong (pop. 4531), and Hartley's Amateur was playing on the TV, and the pony-tailed biker proprietor was bigger than me and my Vietnamese friend and my Indian friend combined. We were a rare trio in that town.

Like when I strayed from my buddy's crib in Novato (pop. 49,500) and wandered into my first California trailer park experience. It was night, I was an old teenager, she was a young teenager, no we didn't do sex, no we didn't neck nor pet. She didn't know who Bruce Lee was. She was very sad. She didn't like her step dad.

I love small towns and want to spend more time in them. Learn from the culture of a community in the hundreds or thousands rather than millions. Feed my insatiable hunger for anthropology and sociology and I'msocuriousabouthumansology. Looking out Jamie's window in Owen Sound, the dark veins of tree branches poking through the endless duvet of undisturbed snow... I fancied the thought of sitting there and writing by pen and typewriter until spring. I could spend a season in the country, isolating myself from the distraction and chatter of the city. Assess how to be a better person. Quiet my mind that is so manic in the city that I often go to sleep after the sun rises. If not a season, then at least a month. At least a week. At least a few days until my hand shoots up by its own volition, wanting taxi. At least a few days until my body goes into fits of carbon-monoxide withdrawal, crying out for another dose of rush hour. At least a few days until I can get trapped in a subway car full of ring tones. Then I'm back in the city, where I belong, where I can jaywalk eight lanes of traffic look out for the streetcars breeze by the opera house zip past the hot dog stands try to run through yet more condo hoardings that constrict the sidewalks like trans fat arteries... But what's the rush? It's 5AM and the noodle houses are still open, as always.



Thursday, January 22, 2009

GEORGE

George Walker Bush had a good thing going. His good thing was going out a door held open by Obama. Even though George was thanked at the top of the inaugural speech and then got totally owned for the subsequent eighteen minutes, he has shown no animosity toward his successor; indeed, he must sincerely appreciate being bailed out. As the Bushes and Obamas stood for their poignant photo-op just before boarding the heli, the former president and former president-elect shared some words. Michelle O. was gracious enough to write on my wall, telling me what they said:

GEORGE: Well, Barry, it's all yours now.
BARACK: Was I too harsh?
GEORGE: It's all good, yo.
BARACK: Keep in touch. Text me, k?
GEORGE: Aight.
(waves to cameras)
GEORGE: Hey Barry...
BARACK: 'Sup?
GEORGE: Thank you.
BARACK: Don't be silly.
GEORGE: No, for reals. Thank you.
BARACK: Peace in the Middle East?
GEORGE: Peace out.

And then he choppered the hell outta Dodge Chrysler. George reclined in his La-Z-Boy aboard Marine One and exhaled, "God bless America. Allah be praised for Obama." He shut his eyes for a daydream, reflected on how much the world hates him, his faint smile exposing his new-found relief: He did not renege, he was not impeached, he did not abdicate. He admitted mistakes, but Obama helped him save face.

Surely, over the years, as his war cry got drowned out by cries of protest and shrapnelled Iraqi babies, George must have re-considered. Even if fleetingly. A flash of doubt. He seems genuinely confident that answering terror with terror was the right choice, but even though he might be the most deluded and naive of men, he is not oblivious to the reasons why he is hated. During eight years of being counselled on actions affecting billions, George must have pondered, at least once, "Am I right?"

Perhaps his flash of doubt had exploded into a fully illuminated epiphany, when one cold crisp night on Pennsylvania Avenue, Jesus told him, "No, George, you are wrong."

GEORGE: Fuck.
JESUS: I know.
GEORGE: I've been wrong all along.
JESUS: Word.
GEORGE: FUCK!
JESUS: Ssssshhh...
GEORGE: Now what do I do?
JESUS: Lay low.
GEORGE: How? I'm the fuckin' President of the United States of America, for Your sake!
JESUS: Ssssshhh...
GEORGE: ...I'm wrong...
JESUS: But don't tell anyone you're wrong. Keep mum.
GEORGE: And just keep saying that I'm right?
JESUS: Right.
GEORGE: For how long?
JESUS: Be patient. You will soon be succeeded by a black man.
GEORGE: For reals?
JESUS: Dude, I don't front.
GEORGE: You've shown me the light...
JESUS: That's my thing.
GEORGE: ...and you want me to keep lying?
JESUS: Be strong. You're a Republican.
GEORGE: Aight. I won't recant I won't recant I won't recant...
JESUS: Good boy. Good wrong boy.
(George sighs)
JESUS: He's also white.

And so George kept mum for the good of his nation. He knew that if he admitted to being wrong, he would let the troops down. Osama would release another video, a three-second clip: "Man, you got hardcore served." Ahmadinejad would turn gay with joy (like, happy). Mostly, he kept mum for himself, to cobble together whatever scraps remained of his defunct legacy. He knew in his soul, with the help of J.C., that he should have shut down Gitmo, let the waterboards dry, brought the troops back home to their families, but he had to remain resolved behind the lectern. George had a mulatto ace up his sleeve. All he had to do was keep his doubts silent. Let Obama execute what George learned he should have done but was not able.

GEORGE: (by BlackBerry) barry, thank u. thnk u 4 being the greatest thing 2 ever happen 2 me. now im free

Monday, January 19, 2009

MICHELLE

I saw news footage of the concert happening in Washington for Obama. During Stevie Wonder's set, Michelle Obama was clappin' and groovin' along, lips pouting and chin jutting out, on beat, all bad ass. It was the first time I'd seen a First Lady move to the music and not look stupid. It was so right.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

MEAD

April 10, 1999
People seem to have too much faith in gravity, walking around with their satchels unzipped.

June 3, 1999
What differentiates between a real hip-hopper, and someone who isn't, is which person jumps up with delight as soon as any song by Young MC is played.

June 5, 1999
He's annoying. Always annoying me. A real annoyance. All he does is annoy me. But he's sitting on the edge of the bench, sitting pigeon-toed, nursing an old plastic salsa container housing his lunch, fettuccine and jarred spaghetti sauce. His cheeks are stained tomatoey-orange.

How could I hate him? I hate myself for hating him. Then I hate myself for caving in.

February 5, 2000
Such an unpleasant, unwelcome, and inconvenient surprise -- like jury duty.

September 23, 2000
During my shower Saturday
cooing of pigeons
hoping it's moaning of woman
masturbating

Saturday, January 10, 2009

CANDY

Up my block is a newspaper box for The Georgia Straight. It never used to be there. It wasn't there when the building behind it was Buy-Low Foods. It wasn't there when Buy-Low became a Chinese supermarket. It wasn't there when the Chinese supermarket became a Vietnamese supermarket. The box is new, just like the gang of hott young things waiting at the bus stop across the street -- rocking tight black jeans, toques, tattoos, channeling Chrissie Hynde and M.I.A. -- who until recently had never been this far south or east. Only a year ago, you would never find The Straight in my hood, which is, let's say, around Victoria and Kingsway. For years immemorial The Straight's "Best of Vancouver" best neighbourhood has been Kitsilano 'cause everybody in Kitsilano can read -- and therefore vote in -- the rag. But in my hood, if your paper wasn't in Chinese, Portuguese, Italian, Punjabi, or Vietnamese, ain't nobody gonna read you. By the way, my Vancouver crib is in Kensington/Renfrew-Collingwood, but you've never heard of my neighbourhood because no one cares. Or cared. Maybe you do now. Now you can pick up a copy of The Straight as you purchase your rice vermicelli and pound of tripe.

There was a joint called Candy Bar on Kingsway that I went to once in 2005. It replaced the ancient E&B Restaurant that was open twenty-four hours and featured the owner clipping his toenails by the front door, leg perched high atop the counter. Across the street is the McDonald's where I spent countless high-school lunch hours watching Joey order Chicken McNuggets and how the hell did this fellow East Van kid afford McNuggets every day, those shits were mad expensive. Look to the corner and there's Pho Bich Nga, which blew up for all the wrong reasons. Half a block down is where I did my first timid tag, in the three-feet-wide space between two buildings for the viewing pleasure of absolutely nobody. Go up the alley and there's Derrick's crib for daily doses of Rap City. Go up a bit more and you're at Brewers Park where rumbles were regular and children got drunk on Labatt Ice every Friday and our classmate mugged an old Chinese lady and I'll tell you more next time. But Candy Bar. It was new. Bands played there. Hot girls with black hair were there. Boys whose jeans were getting progressively tighter were there. You were served wine from a carton there. Finally, a venue that had cheap booze, dope music, hot girls with guitars, all a mere four blocks from my home. I hadn't been so excited about that chunk of Kingsway since getting my wicked undercuts at Cut 'N Blow.

But something felt wrong. Candy Bar was too close to the coffee shop where Nick's dad would join other Portuguese husbands escaping their wives to watch Benfica play in Lisbon. Candy Bar was too close to Midland Liquidators where Cos and I would hoard their new shipments of vintage Krylon. Candy Bar was too close to where W. got shot in the leg and N. almost got shot in the head when the Chinese dudes did a drive-by on our high school at 3.30PM. My neighbourhood wasn't cool. The only thing cool about it was the people who had lived here for decades, quietly building our existence as the anti-Kitsilano. All we wanted to do was raise our local status by adding another lion statue to the gate of our Vancouver Special. We didn't want to be a destination -- our businesses served mostly us and that was enough. And now we were being invaded by Others from Elsewhere because we're cheap and novel.

At Candy Bar, while I was enjoying my boxed merlot (just kidding, it was boxed "red"), my heart welcomed all the young folks while my bitter tongue chided, "This ain't Main Street... You're so far east that you're half-way to Burnaby...". I was proud that these Terry Richardson worshippers were trekking out to my hood. I was disdainful that they wouldn't come here if not for Candy Bar. Mostly, I was disgusted to realise that I too am one of these young folks, that I too prefer drinking in the poorest neighbourhoods in the shittiest bars because they are so uncool. And that is why we are cool.

I wanted to visit Candy Bar again but they closed not long after my only time. Perhaps saying, "Zoe, I'll see you at Kensington/Renfrew-Collingwood!" isn't as cool as saying, "Zoe, I'll see you on Main!" My neighbourhood has continued to change since the end of Candy Bar, and if the Straight newspaper box and American Apparel girls at the bus stop are any indication, there will soon be stacks of Vice in the dozens of pho restaurants around my way. If the young folks truly want to honour my old hood/their new hood, they'd better make sure those copies of Vice are in Vietnamese.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

KNOW

I didn't wanna know. But I did wanna know. Like how some people don't wanna see their doctor 'cause they fear finding out they're positive, but still, they gotta know, you know?

He's the kindest, most open-minded, liberal man I know. My own politics are based on how he raised me. But I couldn't assume anything, take his values for granted. If I asked, would I be plunging our relationship into a frigid ocean of lost respect? I had to know. I rehearsed the question in my head at the dinner table. I was about to say it but he got up for another bowl of rice and ruined my rhythm. He sat down. I re-phrased the question in my head. Pause.

"America's gonna have a new president soon. Do you like him?"

Without hesitation he said, "Yes."


Phew. I can still be my father's son.