Wednesday, December 31, 2008

You've got to admit it's getting better

One of my many reasons for moving to Japan was to experience life as a racial majority. Hoping to get a glimpe of what it's like to be white in America, I actually got a glimpse of what it's like to be a mentally-challenged Japanese guy (due to my looks coupled with my difficulty with the language). But I've written enough about that. I'm still awaiting my Oscar.

For better or worse, race will always be an issue to me. A very prominent Asian-American scientist whose name doesn't come to mind (my point exactly) once said that America needs an Asian Al Sharpton. I agree. And I've gone through those soul-searching phases both long and short where I've wanted to be that person. I've taken the ASAM courses in college, written angry e-mails to NBC over Sarah Silverman's repeated usage of "chink" on national television, and boycotted Details for an extremely offensive article titled "Gay or Asian?" But regardless of how angry or not angry I get, I still have to live. I have to live every day.

Japan certainly helped. In that one year abroad, I learned more about my racial identity than I have the proper words to convey. I'm glad. And I will sheepishly admit that I had tears in my eyes during Obama's victory speech, but it later became a bittersweet moment. Would America ever elect an Asian-American president? Beyond that point, could I ever be considered a true American if that feat remains impossible?

I'm mentioning all this because of a conversation I had the other night at a bar. I often get upset with my father for a certain habit of his, a habit that I have sadly inherited. Basically, the scientist in him loves to analyze minute and pointless details way after the fact. He will also conjecture upon facts that can easily be found out with the click of a button. For instance, if he wanted to know all the movies that Jennifer Connelly starred in (this is doubly strange because it appears my father and I are both madly intrigued by the same actress), he wouldn't go to imdb. He would probably sit there and try to write all the movies down. That, or he'd ask me to name all the movies I'd seen with her in them and then try to recall if he'd also seen them. For the first problem, let's say he couldn't find a restaurant. When he actually got to the restaurant, he would ask the waiter why it was so hard to find the restaurant and offer suggestions as to how to avoid this situation in the future. Let's also throw in the detail that we are on a road trip. We will never come back to this restaurant, but he needs to know how to hypothetically find it in the future.

Now back to the bar and my point.

Because of this inherited trait coupled with my loose lip when drinking, I often find myself asking very straightforward and odd questions to people at bars. They aren't odd in the sense that no one wants to know, but they are odd in the sense that no one wants to ask. After "chatting up this bird" for a short while, I wanted to know if she was single. Instead of putting it that way, I said something along the lines of "You have a boyfriend, right? Because you're attractive. And if you were attractive and didn't have a boyfriend, that would be strange. Girls who are attractive tend to attract the affections of many gentleman suitors. Since you are attractive in my estimation, you more than likely routinely share the company of a person of my gender."

Her response? "This is funny because my boyfriend is Indian."

I paused to ponder her statement and then asked: "Why is that funny?"

The absolute worst part of this story is that I can't even remember her response. If I were writing this into a movie, I'd have to make something up. Or make the character playing me not drink so much. Did I just get up and walk away? Did my jaw drop and hit the table breaking my jaw so that I had to go to the hospital? Did her face melt? I have no idea.

Here's my father-inherited moot-point analysis:
1. It was funny to her because it meant another person with an ethnicity originating from the CONTINENT of Asia found her attractive.
2. It was funny to her because she found another person from the CONTINENT of Asia attractive.
3. How white is this Indian boyfriend of hers that she could even make a statement like that?
4. If a black guy talks to her, does she tell him it's funny because she has a Latino mailman?

The absolute best part of this story is that I wasn't even offended. I was interested. In fact, I mostly take her statement to mean #2 up there. So maybe I don't need an Al Sharpton. Maybe I just need to live and talk and share and exist. But I'd pay a lot to know what she said.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Things My Parents Say #1

I got home late last night after seeing my friend Farbod downtown. On the kitchen table was a photo of a male and female in formal wear. The picture was on top of an envelope. My thought process went something like this:

1. Wow, that's a photo of a couple I went to prom with.
2. Is it a wedding invitation?
3. They are getting married?
4. Who opened my mail?

I lifted the photo to look at the envelope. It was blank, so I canceled out my thoughts 2-4.

Enter father, stage right.
Him: Do you know who those people are?
Me: Yeah, it's a friend from high school.
Him: Which one is your friend?
Me: The girl.
Him: *Pauses, smiles* She's pretty. Who is she?
Me: Where did you get this?
Him: It was in a drawer I keep of your stuff. How did it get there?
Me: No idea.

Now this interaction alone might not seem like much, but my parents have had a piercing interest in any girl I have spoken to since the age of 12. And if it's a name they haven't heard, they make sure to find out if it's male or female. Yes, Tom is my new male friend. Jennifer is a new female friend. No, she is not my girlfriend. I can have friends who are not my gender. Why isn't she my girlfriend? I don't know. I'm sorry. I will work on that. I will ask her why she is not my girlfriend.

If I were to wager a guess, my father felt this photo was worth holding onto for the last 7 years because there was a female in it. No, she's still not my girlfriend. I don't know where she is. I'm sorry. Maybe I'll see her at the reunion.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Excerpts from unanswered cover letters

"I fondly remember tying up the phone line with my 56k modem to defend against Zergling rushes on the River Styx."

"I also freelanced for Spin Magazine, Philadelphia Weekly, and, covering everything from’s Music Genome Project to the fashion styles of affluent pre-teens in Manhattan."

"I’ve microphoned Yo-Yo Ma’s cello and discussed politics with Henry Rollins."

"I spent much of my time strumming plastic guitars and hitting taiko drum sets."

"So when you see Shaun White breakdancing in mid-air, remember that he’s a professional. He’s called “the flying tomato.” There’s a video game with his name on it. Even if you live atop a snow-covered mountain, do not try this at home."

Sunday, December 28, 2008

"I am Torq. This is my heart."

It was junior year of college when I first heard the line. Part of a spoken-word intro by a few members of the band Stars, I laughed. Whereas most bands try to avoid being labeled "precious" or "emo," here was a band that put it in your face. They were tempting, even daring you to deal with it. A few years later, I would have Torq (short for Torquil) on the phone, and I found myself hanging on to his every word. Torq was far from precious, far from emo, and he wasn't even that interested in discussing his music. No, he was primarily concerned with railing against George W. Bush and the fact that people continually told him he couldn't rail against George W. Bush because he was from Canada when he's actually from New York.

Now why am I telling you this?

I'm looking for what I will call "The Torq Ratio." I will call it that because this new space is essentially my heart. (Please don't vomit. Read on.) A lot of thoughts enter your head when you live with your parents, are unemployed, and haven't lived in a place for seven years. With all that in mind, I will try my best to not be precious, not be emo, and I won't mention the lame duck president because, well, he's a lame duck president.

I will now make a short list of things I will be covering here:
1. Things my parents say or do (trust me on this one)
2. My possible/maybe/yikes new career path of becoming Donald Draper
3. Interactions with the girl next door who everyone said would grow up to be hot and is actually hot now but I haven't spoken to her since 1998 so now it's awkward even though it shouldn't be so all it comes down to now is me waving when we check the mail at the same time because she also lives at home now that she's done with college and applying to medical school.
4. The fact that I ironically became an otaku only after leaving Japan.
5. How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Unemployment

Lastly, one of the main reasons I'm starting this page is to protect my brain from death. If I don't post 5 times a week, leave an angry comment. It will be harder than writing from Japan because getting a haircut is no longer a journey. I am Lo. This is my start.