Chapter 4: On Mom, The Librarian

August 16, 2009


I don’t really remember much from the rest of my early elementary school experience.  There really wasn’t much worth remembering I guess.  Life leapt from unremarkable event to unremarkable event.  It’s funny how every little thing seemed of the utmost importance as a child.  After I leapt over the language barrier, it was much easier for me to make friends.  Participating in after-school activities like Cub Scouts and Little League helped speed along the process of course.

By this time, my family had comfortably settled in our own home.  We weren’t relegated to crowdedly coexisting with our relatives, my dad had found a decent job and my mom was working as a waitress at my uncle’s local Chinese restaurant (go figure).  The hours were long and she was always home late so eventually she decided to find another job – one where she could work from home so she could look after my brother and I while we grew up.

In elementary school, my mom decided to take some time off during the workday to volunteer a couple hours at the school library, clearly the good suburbanite housewife thing to do.  Oh how exciting it was to see my mom outside of her element.  It wasn’t an easy thing for her to do. My home wasn’t exactly the type of home that the cool kids flocked to.  I rarely had any toys.  Just a flaccid Styrofoam-stuffed ninja turtle that we all took turns pummeling in a set rotation.  The only reason some of my friends came over was because my house always had the most up-to-date computer technology because my mom had started a job as a computer programmer and her company always regularly upgraded her computer hardware.  This only meant we could always play the latest computer games at my house.

The one instance I do remember of one of my good friends coming over ended up a disaster.  My friend Peter and I were just horsing around, as boys often do, and since I’m Asian and obviously born skilled at the martial arts, we decided to have ourselves a little sparring session.  I don’t know how things escalated.  Who played dirty first?  Who was running their mouth?  But I do clearly remember losing my temper, balling up my small left fist and popping my friend as hard as I could just below his chin in the Adam’s apple.  Bad idea.  He instinctively wrapped his hands around his throat, his face contorted in pain as he struggled to breath in and out, in and out to no avail.  Terror was written all over his features, his eyes tearing and his movements more frantic.  His face was turning purple, his freckles less and less prominent as color rushed to his normally pasty white complexion.  He was alternating between gagging and gasping and all I could do was stand there frozen in fear, gawking uneasily.  After what seemed like the longest thirty seconds of my life, my friend was finally able to draw a full, life giving breathe.  Afterward, Peter sat hunched over, visibly shaken.  I was relieved.  How could I have done something so awful to my friend?  I didn’t really want to hurt him.  He’d always been nice to me.  Sure, friends have their disagreements sometimes, but is it worth engaging in this gratuitous violence and reactionary hatred?  He isn’t so different from me.  We’re all human – our lives equally as precious and deserving of that next breathe.

So my mom’s volunteer work at the library was really that significant.  It was her own stand in a society that found her and her kind alien.  Her broken English, her quirky Oriental way of thought – all of that separated her, but she was still willing to attempt to lay her differences aside and challenge herself, all for the sake of her sons.  Instead of just being the courteous waitress that served you at the local Chinese restaurant, my mom became the Asian librarian that everybody knew to be my mom – just a little bit out of place, but still able to hang with the best of them.

Mine Own Personal Beautiful Word Cloud

March 24, 2009


Wordle helps you create beautiful word clouds with your own text, either through manual input or rss feed.  I chose to manually input because it seemed like it was only reading a couple of my recent entries and I wasn’t getting the effect I desired.  I posted the last 20 or so of my posts, anticipating what sort of beautiful word cloud I would get.  It’s cool because it helps you see the trend in your writing so you can remind yourself to not use certain words with such regularity.

With that said, my big words are as follows: “just”, “like”, “much”, “life”, “going”, “people, “really”, “good”.  I must write this phrase a lot: “life is pretty much just going really good, people”.  I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing.  Have fun with your own word clouds!

What’s My Passion?

March 17, 2009

I gave my SD card to Crystal Jean to rip the pictures I took yesterday off so she can jump on the editing process so my updates this week will have to be less visual and much more content-driven.

I had a 2 1/2 hour work day today.  I first couldn’t find any parking on the tenant parking lot so I ended up parking three blocks away and walking to work.  I was observant enough to notice the street cleaning signs for Monday from 12-3pm so I avoided making a terrible mistake and incurring my third ticket of the last two weeks.  Parking so far away shouldn’t be that notable of an event but working in Mid-City, Los Angeles makes the mundane much more interesting when your neighbors spend their days riding around the hood on a bicycle doing only God know what, looking for God knows who.

I click-clacked my way into the shop, unlocking the vast array of dead bolts, twist-knobs, metal-prongs & sheet metal that bar the general public from the store during off-hours.  From my very first step in the door, I could already tell that something was amiss.

Silence.  Stone cold silence. I glanced around.  Where was the steady hum of the fridge holding ice cold beverages for the wayward customer?  The almost-undetectable whine of the computer monitors stuck in sleep mode?  The soft red glow of the power strip healthily chugging along?  I put down my things in the back office, and hit the light switch to get the business buzzing.

Chirp. Chirp. Chirp.  That damned cricket stuck behind the counter is still living like a king behind the fire-hazard of coiled wires.

Electricity was out.  Nothing was working.  I wouldn’t be able to jump into my work like I wanted to.  I came in ready to conquer the world and moments later, I was sitting alone in a dark shop, defeated.

I eventually got my act together, shot my boss a call and he said he’d try to figure out what was up and that he was sure he had paid the electric bill last week, and I said I’d go check on our neighbor to see if they still had power.  I walked over to our new neighbor, who had just moved in.  The door was freshly painted a hippy-tree green, still glistening with wet paint.  She warned me not to touch the door as I inquired about the state of electricity on the block.  Obviously, all was still well with her electricity because her lights and displays were all vibrant.  I left dejected, and her blatantly homosexual hipster employee looked me in the eyes and told me that he liked my eyes.  He demonstrated by tugging ever-so-slightly on the edge of his eye in jest.  He said my eyes looked like they were painted on my face – all with an eerily-calm smile on his face.  I left the store hurriedly, not sure how I felt about that turn of events.

I walked back into the shop, not knowing what to do for the rest of the day since obviously, business could not be had unless it was old-fashioned, hand-written receipt business, and Mondays have never, ever in the history of my working there been even a decent revenue-by-foot-traffic day.  Ironically, there was a knock on the door.  One of our regular customers, Jesus (pronounced Hey Zeus!), was standing outside.  He’s a really chill guy, and he’s in with the right guys at the store because he can cop whatever he wants at a wholesale price.  He came in, said what’s up as I explained the no electricity situation, and started rifling through the racks.  I think if it had been any other customer it would’ve been awkward since the shop was dark and completely silent, but Jesus is just that chill of a guy.  He understands us.  He knows what we’re going through.  We don’t have to hide the fact that we’re hustling as hard as we can just to scrape by month to month.  As he looked around, I pulled out my laptop and started on the only project that I could do without the internet – calculating how much money I’m owed by the company.  It took quite a while to get this going cos I’m a noob at excel and I also have quite a few unaccounted pay periods to manually input.  As he looked around at different jackets, tees and jeans, we chopped it up a little.

“If you don’t mind me asking, what line of work are you in?”.  I decide to strike up some simple conversation.  He’s always been pretty well-kempt, and he always bought multiple items in the shop even during the heart of the recession, so I was genuinely interested.  Maybe I was scoping for a line of work to get into.  It turns out he’s a professional audio/music mixing technician and does mixing for a studio in the area and he was certified in a 9-month program at one of the LA-based academies.  His line of work wasn’t hit that hard by the recession because, well, music still comes out regardless of the hard times and his studio is frequented by the right people.  The conversation got to a point where we started talking about what we like to do, where we see ourselves and what we’re passionate about.

I thought for a moment.  “I like reading and writing.  No real particular form, I just like doing it.  I think that if I could, I would want to pursue that.  I’m still trying to figure out the rest of my life though.  God knows where I’ll be in a couple years.  With money as tight as it is now , I don’t think I can keep working here up very much longer and I don’t know where I’ll be even a couple months from now.  All I know is, if I can be passionate about my line of work, there’s nothing that’ll I have to do to stay motivated.  I wouldn’t care about the hours I put in, the sacrifices I’d have to make.  I’m not saying there won’t be times that I won’t be feeling ‘it’, but thats when you kick it into overdrive and see how far you can go”.

Essentially, Jesus didn’t even have to say that much, but he had said enough.  I’m not that sociable of a person.  I’d rather sit at home in my backyard on my laptop with my puppy running around than be at the heart of LA having to be a sociable creature.  It goes against my nature.  Then there are those moments when you really connect on a personal level, where it’s not even about the exchange of goods, but its about developing a friendship beyond that of a normal shopkeeper/customer.

After Jesus paid for the two pairs of Levi’s he bought and left, I felt good about the rest of the day.  I didn’t mind when my boss had me scour the outside of the building in search of the fuse box, forcing me to stick my hand into cobwebs to flip random fuses in search of an answer to our electrical woes.  I didn’t mind when my boss told me that he had indeed forgotten to pay his electricity bill and that my driving all the way to LA today was indeed a fruitless undertaking.  I didn’t mind that after plugging in numbers on my make-shift Excel workbook, I found out that I’m owed just about $6000 in back pay.  I didn’t mind that even though I left work at about 2:40pm, it still took me almost an hour and a half to get home to finally eat lunch at 4pm because I had no microwave to heat it up.  I didn’t mind that as I was working in my backyard, my dog took a massive dump and I had to scoop it up before she gleefully cleaned it up herself…with her mouth.

What’s my passion?  What’s my dream job?  Come back to me on that.  I know what I wouldn’t mind doing though.  I wouldn’t mind writing for a show like NBC’s ‘The Office’.  I feel like I could write family-friendly (yet at the same time) borderline-risque over-the-top mockumentary style humor set in an office, no problem.