the unequivocal no

May 11th, 2017

One of the greatest pleasures of getting older is being absolutely comfortable saying no and expressing anger. Recently, I was with Los Kids visiting my parents. On our elevator, was an older Asian man in his 60s and younger one in his 20s, both dressed in suits. They were Korean. I noticed them immediately, since they were buzzed in at the same time as me, and there are no other Asians in my parents building. We made chit chat in the elevator, and then I noticed they were going to the same floor.

Older man: Do you speak Korean?
Me: (apologetic) No, sorry. Oh, are you visiting my parents?
Older man: Yes.
Me: [still warm] Are you friends of theirs?
Older man: We are Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Needle off the record. I cannot believe this.

Me: You need to turn around right now and leave this building immediately. My father is not well and you will only upset him.
Older man: Oh okay.

They left. I said everything very calmly, my heart rate not that much faster. They were trading on our common ethnic heritage to gain audience and access to our building. And it just so happens, my father despises organized religion. Had they not left, I would have threatened to call the police.

God, and that is the beautiful thing about aging. As you grow more comfortable in your skin, you feel more powerful and you are so all out of f*cks. Like if you call the Tina Lee “f”s store, like sorry, they’re all out.

deep thoughts

May 11th, 2017

Someone needs to invent something in between a beef burger (calorie felony) and the veggie burger (tastes like paste). Oh help me, world!

next life

May 11th, 2017

For many years, I have been praying (you know, as an atheist) that I would come back in the next life as a golden retriever. That’s all I want. This year, I found that golden retrievers tend to gain weight and be overweight. (Ugh, no thank you. I have that covered in spades.) Plus my co-worker’s golden retriever died of cancer.


American Ninja: Mom Edition

April 10th, 2017

This is a story from a summer or two ago, so it’s not this bad now, though we still get a day with the kids where the gods of transportation and happenstance conspire against us.

I was taking the kids to a birthday party in Chelsea. Our train had all kinds of weird weekend advisory switches and my mom was so sick. She insisted on helping us get to Chelsea from Brooklyn, and then finally listened when I said go home.

The party was a theater party. All the children were invited to go on stage and try on costumes, play theater games, and in the end, rehearse and put on a show. My kids hated this. First Son is pretty shy, the Wonder Twins were young. Boy Wonder Twin insisted on being carried everywhere that day. I think the kids were age 5 and 3 at the time.

When it was finally time to go home, I had Wonder Twin clinging even more insistently (turned out he had an ear infection). I got us to the nearest F station where I finally understood there were no downtown trains, so we walked up to Penn Station, walked up an down stairs, ramps, til we found the right escalator going down to our platform. First Son went, followed by Girl Wonder Twin, with me and Boy Wonder Twin in a stroller. As I watched Wonder Twin Girl’s legs begin to splay, I yelped at First Son for help. He dutifully climbed back up and took her hand. Phew. We get down there. Girl Wonder Twin says she has to go to the bathroom. I offer to her hold her over the trash can, the way I heard that peasant children go in China. She says no, so we schlep up back to the hot day and search for a bathroom. Nothing in the mall, but we hit jackpot at the Gap in that area. After we all empty our bladders, I tell the kids we deserve a goddamn treat and by $6 gelatos for each of us (tourist prices). We head back to the subway. Girl Wonder Twin’s balloon hits the woman in front of us. She is so nice, she helps her cross the street. We head back to the subway. First Son helps Girl Wonder Twin. New emergency: the heat of the day is so intense that our gelato turns instantly into liquid. One of the twins spills it all over the waiting bench and his/her pants, but finally, finally, finally, we catch a subway home.

I’m tired just thinking about that day.

lazy inspiration

April 10th, 2017

Lazy inspiration: we should set up a TV watching workshop, like a writers workshop, but you wouldn’t have to write anything.

I can’t even start it. Too lazy.


April 10th, 2017

I feel like 90 percent of everything I read in college featured the word “hegemony.” I had to look it up every time. I still don’t know what it means. I am not going to look it up.

get out

April 10th, 2017

My mom went to see “Get Out” by Jordan Peele by herself.

Me: Why? Why would you do that to yourself?
Mom: The Times gave it such a good review, I had to go.
Me: Yes, it’s brilliant, it’s clever, but it’s still a horror movie. yYu are not a horror movie person. i saw it. It was very scary.
Mom: I covered my eyes.
Me: Why didn’t you leave?
Mom: I don’t know. It was not a crowded theater.
Me: I really wish you would call me before you make these decisions.

“tiny, beautiful things” by cheryl strayed

February 18th, 2017

I picked up this collection of advice columns after reading that the Public Theater had adapted it into a show that ran this past December. I love when theater comes from unexpected places, so I thought I’d give this a whirl despite the fact that this kind of obvious book is not really my jam. No matter. I dug it. This woman writes very well, and with such directness, such honesty, that it really inspired me to be more myself when writing. I love giving advice too, so it was interesting to hear her perspective.There is one excruciating letter from a man who lost his twenty-three year old son to a hit-and-run via drunk driver that I bawled on the subway.

She is also the author of Wild, a huge bestseller and a movie starting Reese Witherspoon, so her level of success is astroid level (unless astroids are the ones that shoot down the earth. First Son was just reciting the difference between a comet, a meteorite, and an astroid, and I cannot for the life of me recall the definitions but possibly none of the three would be an appropriate word of astronomical success if they are all stars that shoot down to the earth in terrific fashion). Strayed recently gave an interview about how much money she actually made from writing her first big novel sale and was explicit about how much the agent gets, the credit card gets, how the length of the payment schedule means you never get that moment of holding two giant bags of money in the air and shout “I’m going to Jamaica, b*tches!” or whatever is your catch phrase of glory. When I was a kid, I read the Choose Your Own Adventure series, where depending on your choices, you went to different pages in the book. I used to keep a book mark at every crossroads to read the other paths I could have taken. I could never accept that the one adventure was the only one open to me. So reading about Strayed’s path of unbridled success having obstacles made me feel that every path is full of struggle and I stopped worrying about the ones I haven’t taken.

pretty woman

February 18th, 2017

I was recently assigned a big project at work, and all the people in my corner there are rooting for me. May I note, however, that the way they are rooting for me is by making very pointed, personal comments about how I speak and dress to the point where I’m like, oh it’s like I’m in Pretty Woman without the denouement on Rodeo Drive where Julia Roberts gets to buy whatever she wants with a bunch of credit cards. I will say right before I headed into a big meeting, my head mail room guy told me wipe my face and my office manager dusted off the back of my jacket. It was completely like being around my family, some of whom start brushing my hair before saying hello.

odd jobs

February 18th, 2017

When we immigrated to the U.S., my dad had a lot of trouble lining up work. Back in Korea, he had gone to Kyongi Boys High School and Seoul National University, an Andover and Harvard of Korea, if you will. It was the seventies and there was a recession, so despite having a law degree, my dad, like many immigrants, had to hustle and start from scratch. I had forgotten the series of odd jobs he had gotten connected with through his friends, until this past Valentine’s Day when I joked to Husband that I got him a box of chocolates with an animal on the cover without eyes. The comment made no sense to either of us, but then, something got jarred in my memory and I recalled a large box of stuffed animals in our home in New Jersey with no eyes.

Husband: What do you mean with no eyes?
Me: No eyes, I mean like no eyes were ever sewn on the stuffed animals.
Husband: And you played with them?
Me: Oh sure. It’s not like they once had eyes and they were gouged out. (This reminds me of King Lear — isn’t he blinded in the play?)
Husband: No wonder you’re so weird.
Me: You’re a lucky guy.

I also remember getting a hooded white rabbit waist-length coat when he was briefly in the fur business and Mom had some gray fox fur coat that framed her face and went down to her ankle. She was quite glam then (and still is actually). There was also a time when he sold these awful sad clown paintings and paintings of boats at a dock, like the most soulless, cheesy, dentist office-looking art that was stacked in piles around the house.

Poor Dad. He was always so hungry to work, to prove himself. I often felt like he was a Willy Loman, whose ship had never come in. Maybe that’s not a fair assessment. Before we moved to the U.S., he was based in London while Mom and I were in Seoul. He worked for some shipping conglomerate, a Samsung or something, and traveled all over the world.

In the U.S., the biggest job he managed to get was a freelance gig as a middle-man selling semi-conductors, connecting American, Korean, and French business peeps, using his effervescent charm and goofy jokes (and I’m sure whatever else you’re suppose to use) to close deals. I did not really know and still do not know what a semi-conductor is, but it has to do with computers…I think. He was very well-liked. He did that for four years while I was in college, and through that job, he paid for every penny of my tuition. My parents are so proud of that accomplishment, and I had no appreciation of it at the time. Now I do. People my age are still paying loans, I have three children and I don’t there’s anyway I can pay for even half of their tuition. What good fortune I was born under.

That was his last big job. The computer industry changed, and the semi-conductor wasn’t really necessary. Every time I’d call him to check in, he would say “I’m fine, not doing much, looking for some excitement.”

This was many years ago.