In these incredibly anxiety-provoking times, I’ve been turning to music. I’m seeing a lot of live music and trying to discuss new bands, in order to remind myself that humans can do cool things. Humans can be cool. This is a band someone in IT recommends, and I love it. I blast it when I am in deep despair over the state of our country, to chase the badd juju away. It’s like burning sage. And it’s not that it takes place of taking action, but sometimes, I need a breather in order to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Here’s an audio clip of one of their albums and this is what they look like in subway stations.
Every day at lunch, I see an ad featuring the show’s leads on Citibike terminals with sullen, troubled faces and think “white people having problems.” That’s all the ad says to me. I’ve never seen this show. Heard it’s good. It’s just that I have been trained to see diversity as normal from the old theater days of yore (since those are the only shows I could get cast on), that it looks unnatural to me.
Last summer, my three descendants and I made a plan (or well, I made the plan. Please) to go check out Michael Jackson party in some hipster neighborhood off an obscure stop that was like 50 minutes from the apartment. Dicey proposal right there, since Wonder Twins still don’t quite have the sturdy constitution to handle a significant outing plus the travel to and fro, but what the heck, I moved forward with my plan anyway, and like many of parenting plans, I have these thoughts in my head the entire time as I move forward: Was this a mistake? Should I turn around? Am I the worst?
We finally got to this who-know-where off the G train and still had to do our ten minute walk, but there was no way to cross the street because it was the day of the New York Marathon. Have you ever been at Prospect Park at night and encounter a herd of bicyclists? They’re exactly like a herd of antelope. Like they appear shockingly, suddenly. Their pace makes it feel like it’s thundering, and then whoosh, they’re gone. This was not that. It was much worse. The runners were moving like a constant, rapid river. I had no idea what we were going to do.
We stood there watching all kinds of people running past us, spectators on the sides cheering wildly. We saw a man with one leg (had a prosthetic leg on the other), people with flags on their bellies from several European countries. It was very interesting for the kids, who had a lot of questions as to what was happening and what we were going to do next. This marathon traffic would take hours to die down. As the grown-up, I had this inner monologue at the time “uhhhhhhhh.” You know, just a dumb inner buzz wondering how I am the grownup, etc. I asked a stranger if we were allowed to cross, and based on his advice, “yes, if you can find a break,” I tried to spot our chance. I instructed the children to hold hands and to keep close to me as possible, because we were going to make a run for it. I chickened out several times as First Son called out “we could have gone!” I was just nervous about getting trampled. Finally, got the guts and we darted across, my eye on the crowd to make sure we would avoid runners. As we dashed, Wonder Twin Girl flung her face up to the sky and screamed “BEST DAY EVER!” (She cracks me up. This is the point of the day you’re thrilled by?) Another lady congratulated us for making it and said she mooched off our run and was right behind us.
We met our friends at the place hosting the MJ party. DJ played all of his best songs, a disco ball with flashing colors were the only source of light plus trippy images on screen. The event was for…toddlers. My descendants knew all the words and sang and danced and kind of accidentally knocked over some babies. (But why are you bringing your baby to a loud MJ party? Make room. We have some moonwalking to do.) The mom of the family we met bought me a jack and OJ so it was basically like we were in a club but it was 11 a.m. Par-tay! We had lunch, the kids all got along and had fun, as did the adults. It truly was a great day.
We asked a colleague recently how her chronic injury was doing, after she had suffered it for years. She replied great. She had met a masseuse who actually relieved her pain, after consulting nearly 20 doctors. She said that treatment plus the power of prayer solved her issues.
I winced inside.
Let me discuss the concept of prayer. I’m not someone who prays, being a spiritual atheist and all, but I’m totally pro-prayer. If it is your jam, I say embrace it. Prayer can decrease stress, help you manage overwhelming circumstances or keep your calmness steady, however I do not believe prayer can impact clinical outcomes (well, except in the case that stress does weaken your immune system, so in that sense, it can.) Prayer cannot cure physical ailments (or for that matter, decrease gun violence in the U.S., or make someone un-gay). The only reason why I am so passionate about this point is that there is awful thing in cancer care where patients are expected to “fight cancer” or become “cancer warriors,” which adds to their burden. Not only do they have to actually navigate course of treatment options and suffer them, they are expected to spiritually fight illness and experience a sense of failure when they are unsuccessful. F* that. I had an old grad school class die of cancer. You know what she said to her partner near her death bed? “I’m sorry I did not fight harder.”
I hate that she felt that.
Prayer is totes fine, but let’s not overstate our power of our personal fate. We have none. Sometimes, we are sh*t out of luck and the best thing we can do is accept it.
And on that cheerful note, hugs and kisses!
Whew, I just read this fascinating story in The New Yorker about businesses in Japan where you can rent a family. They profile a widower who is estranged from his daughter, who rents a wife and daughter for weekly meals. The article talks about single ladies who pay for boyfriends as dates for different events that escalate into weddings where everyone knows it’s fake except for the bride’s parents. They interview an employee who has played a father, boyfriend, and groom multiple times, and he mentions how he gets confused and keeps falling in love, that the fake weddings actually take as much sweat, energy, and money as producing a real one. I can see how all of that can cloud your sense of reality!
The piece really made think a lot about the concept of family and how they form, and also strongly reminded me of what it’s like to be in a play. In a production, the cast is your “family” for this brief, intense period. You have your family dynamics on stage as your characters and your family dynamics off-stage as yourselves. It is such an intimate bonding I have found ex-cast mates who were formerly warm and affectionate behave bizarrely uncomfortable when I run into them after the fact, almost like we had a one-night stand.
Families form everywhere. They are related to you by blood, they are formed by common interest, they are formed by work. One of the things I keep thinking is how family groups you with people you would never otherwise even meet. Don’t you ever feel that way? That had you not been born in your family, you would never have talked to your sibling/parent/weird uncle (that is, if you are even in touch with your biological family) Work too. Work forms a warped family dynamics, where leadership sometimes yields as much power of you as a parent, but I also find I am close to people who would otherwise not make sense in my life.
There’s a play in there somewhere (I’m not the only one who thinks so, since the phenomenon has inspired an entire category in literature in Japan.) The article also mentions a woman who hired a fake father for her elementary school-age daughter, noticing she was ostracized and caving into herself. (The mom left the dad because he was physically abusive.) It worked. The actor and her daughter have a rich relationship, but the trouble is, the daughter is now 22 and still doesn’t know. Her mom does not know if she will ever tell her, but has kind of fallen in love a wee bit for the actor who plays her ex-husband.
In the movie version of her story, she will confess her romantic feelings to this actor, he will quit the biz and join her family. She’d never have to tell her child a thing. In real life, oh boy, in real life, I’d tell her to keep paying this man and never tell her child the truth.
I have mixed feelings about airbnb. On one hand, it’s slightly more affordable than hotels and it’s great to have a kitchen when away, particularly with children with finicky appetites…but, nah, I don’t like airbnb. It’s creepy. It’s someone’s house and they live there, so you (or I) just feel like I’m encroaching on their space and I can’t quite relax.
I booked one in April upstate by accident (I like to pretend-reserve stuff on Expedia, because you can cancel with no consequence within a certain period of time, and headsup, Expedia lists private homes in with the hotels and those are nonrefundable. The owner had no idea his home was listed on Expedia.) So the family and I took a road trip for spring break. It snowed almost everyday. The house looked stunning in pictures, and more just, lived in, in person. Very ordinary and suburban. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but when I rent a place, I guess I’m looking for something nicer than our home. Since Husband was sick, I drove to get groceries at this palatial ShopRite. I was fighting a cold myself, so the whole thing turned into a rather slow process. There were like ten lanes of block-long options of organic bread or whatever. I could not help but fill up my shopping cart because the variety and the low prices were so impressive. In the cleaning aisle, an elderly African American man asked me to help him choose a cleaning product between two. I read the tiny ingredients and told him they were identical so recommended the cheaper one. In return, he said “god bless you.” (“Thanks, man,” I said. “I need it.”) As I loaded up my groceries into the rental minivan, I told myself to pretend this was my real life to see how it felt. Suburbia. Suburban existence. Hmm.
The caretaker was great and responded right away to everything I request. He was sweet to the kids. We would see his car, but never see him, so it was sort of, kind of private, except for the last night. After we put the kids to bed, the presence of the caretaker and his female partner was super obvious. It turned out they were living in the basement, one flimsy wooden door away. A strong odor of cooking meat filled the house, and we could hear dishes being thrown and the words “I’m not going to take it anymore!” were crystal clear. As we stood listening, wondering what we should do, Husband urged that I text the caretaker that we had kids trying to sleep, but it felt weird to be part of such an intimate fight with a proximity to my personal self that made me nervous. Like if i text “pipe down,” would that make the fight worse? Would I then hear a doorknob turn and suddenly face the woman’s wrath myself? Have I mentioned I am a big, gigantic chicken when it comes to confrontation?
My hesitation paid off because things settled down pretty quickly and no action was necessary. The next morning, my mom and I chatted about what had happened the night before, and she said “And then they were cooking chili con carne.”
I am bewildered and a little impressed that her nose was so specific. It cracks me up because it’s just weird. Months later, I can say “chili con carne” to myself or to Husband and start laughing.
Dad has these episodes of falling, where he cannot control his walking, so his pace keeps building up until he loses complete control and wipes out. I think I’ve already blogged about these symptoms in the past, but just for the FYI, it’s common in folks with Parkinson’s because they don’t really “feel” their feet. He may or may not have Parkinson’s himself, but senior health care is whack because seniors tend to come down with several different health issues at the same time. Since my mom can’t watch him every moment, he has had a few accidents outside the home. (Yes, I know. This is not sustainable and we gotta get someone to help, if not look into assisted living or SOMETHING since ignoring it doesn’t really seem to help.) Luckily, this most recent fall was on his bum and not his head. Apparently, this young man carried him to his building and took his keys and let Dad into the apartment. Dad, suddenly in a panic that he might have made a terrible escape, pushed the man away, shut the door, and locked it. My mom was in bathroom brushing her teeth.
She relayed the whole story to me, and we felt badly about that young, well-meaning man. I hope he realizes what happened and it was only because it’s so very scary to be a senior in the world rather than we don’t appreciate his help. It’s so easy to take advantage of seniors and you never know. When I heard he was someone who lives in their neighborhood, I told Mom to point him out so that I can push him too.
I will just be like “Yo, Koreans push. That’s just what we do. Thanks bubby.”
There is a point in this sudsy chasing-the-serial-killer series where the caucasian actress who plays Villanelle asks a fellow prisoner about Eve, played by Sandra Oh. She says “did an Asian with amazing hair ask about me?” So simple and yet it was a relief. It was a relief to hear a non-Asian mention and recognize someone who is Asian. Halleleujah, we exist! I had always suspected we did and now I finally have proof!
As an Asian lady, I feel part of an invisible group. There’s a perception that Asians are not considered American and don’t count yet in the national conversation, even at a time when race is discussed frequently and at length. Spike Lee just recently talked about his latest film at the Cannes Film and delivered an unrehearsed, off-the-cuff, passionate speech about the lack of moral leadership in our globe and the current president and he said “black, white, brown people — we all have to find a way to live together. We are all on the same planet.” In the Black Lives Matter movement, there was a photo of a woman holding a very clever protest sign that says “Black lives matter more than white feelings.” A Facebook friend, who is caucasian, posted a very honest post saying she had not discussed her feelings about the Black Lives Matter movement publicly because she didn’t know what she could say about. At the end of her remarks, she said “to my black friends, I just want you to know I am heartbroken about this. And to my white friends, what can we do about it?” Reading her comments, I was with her, with her, with her, until I heard what group she was addressing. Oh. Huh. I guess it’s because Asians are perfect. We can’t be racist or have any bias, right? We’re amazing and perfect and don’t need to be part of this national crisis.
I have since slightly revised that opinion. I think some liberal whites only address other whites because they are the most powerful group of people in this country. Also, Asians aren’t the only ones. There’s an author whose book is on the top ten summer reading lists with a memoir called “I Can’t Date Jesus” (I think), an account of growing up gay, black and Christian, and how it just wasn’t working. He has said that gay black men are invisible, and I felt comforted I wasn’t the only one.
I recently watched “Nanette” by Hannah Gadsby on Netflix and cannot stop thinking about it. It’s a standup show she wrote in order to quit comedy altogether. Instead of mimicking the typical joke structure of creating tension, then delivering a punch line, she decides to tell stories that create tension and just leave you there. At least she warns us. She is an Australian gay standby comic whom I’ve never heard of but apparently had an amazing run at SoHo Rep with this piece, which has become so popular, she might not quit comedy after all. There are so many things covered in this act that it’s impossible to summarize neatly and there are a great many reveals that I’d feel guilty spoiling (although I made Husband listen to one because who knows when he’ll get to watch it).
But how do I talk about a piece without revealing its spoils? Her jokes revolve around being a gay woman who often gets mistaken as a man, a feminist take on politics and art history, and a forthright list of all the violence that has been done to her. It is an incredibly gutsy performance and smart piece of writing that inspires me more to be brave and honest in my own writing, and it is a satisfying work of art to see in this year where the news and our government has me simmering with white hot rage 24/7.
I’m slowly getting through my emo’s Grim Reaper’s reading list. The lastest title, Bittersweet Season, is one reporter’s account of taking care of her elderly mother, what she did right, what she didn’t. Aside from a lot of examples where the author doesn’t realize that she alienate her peers by overwhelming them with complicated advice about aging her listener is not ready to hear, there’s a lot of helpful information in there. Some of it, maybe most of it, has already passed for me — but I’m grateful for one throwaway tip. When the author’s mom began to have trouble getting in and out of chairs, the author states that this is a sign that there is a point coming soon where the patient will need a wheel chair. Helpful! When I observe my dad having trouble, I know that he will be immobile at some point. Prior to Dad’s illness, I was very innocent and inexperienced in a way. Every time we had a setback or a diagnosis or noticed a new issue, I thought, for some reason, that would be that, but it turns out life doesn’t work like that. There isn’t really like a plateau stage. It’s ongoing. The other helpful bit from the book is the point that seniors usually have more than one illness, which is hard to manage when doctors seem to be trained to be tunnel-visioned in their speciality. Fabulous advice!
I mean, let’s be real, I’m not doing anything to prepare for this inevitable future. The lifting, the bathing, the walking, the feeding, the changing. Those demands are so totally coming around the bend and beyond mom’s muscle, but with nursing homes running about $10K a month, we’re going to have to keep doing “aging, DIY style.” What I appreciate about the book though is that once the future is here, I will not be taken by surprise. That is a gift I do not take for granted.