baby brush mom grandma brush As our Kitchen theater producer Lesley said, she knows only one Korean phrase, which she tested on my parents — EET-da-kah, which means “Brush your teeth.” Cuuuuuute.

We spent about four days up there, where it seemed to snow every hour. Though we were in town performing, it was still a retreat filled with lots of rest and relaxation between shows. Watched lots of cable, swam in the Holiday Inn pool, got a massage, grabbed breakfast at the Mate Factor, where we seemed to draw the attention of odd hippie commune members and a garden variety of eccentrics. Drank Horny Gingeritas and Zen Marys fused with fresh ingredients and ate homemade twinkies at Felicia’s, got fabulous brunches at Just a Taste.

We wanted to go to see Cornell, but everyone warned us not to walk. “Oh no, it’s too far. It’s on a hill. Let me call you a cab.” It took a couple tries to actually get directions and when Amy and I finally got up the hill, it maybe took 10 minutes? What a cute school nestled in the mountains, like a haven for hobbits or something. I was also excited to find a handful of Korean Ithacans in the audience of the show. Most of them kept quiet during the Q&A session after the show, but I guess that’s better than having them come up to me and saying YOU SUCK or something. When I go to a new place, I try imagine living there, a quieter place than New York City, where the frenetic, breakneck pace can wear you down to a nub if you’re not careful… I thought, nah, I’m so not ready…

…even though our commute back to NYC was a lot less than adorable. Traveling with props and set pieces is always the point where I question why I perform EVER. So there’s like a blizzard Sunday night, which had our bus, which seemed to be a local, traveling 20 miles an hour at some points. We stopped in several obscure, upstate towns, one of which the driver willingly left a 20-year-old kid behind. We all piped up. The kid snuck out for vending machine refreshment and in the dark of the terminal, I could see it took him a while to notice the bus left and break out into a run. (The drive finally stopped a block later, thankfully, maybe just angry enough to teach him a lesson. But the kid clearly didn’t understand that much English, so to leave him in the snow storm at 11 p.m. in like this tundra in upstate didn’t seem like the most compassionate gesture, though I’m sure the driver was stressed out with the gargantuan task of getting us through to Port Authority.)

Once in Port Authority, Amy and I schelpped. She had her suitcase and accordion. I had my suitcase and my big map on foam core which kind of waved in the wind like a mammoth kite, blowing me back on occasion. I yelled directions to that 20-year-old kid, who looked completely lost (but he ignored me, probably assuming I was like a serial killer.) Then Amy and I walked to find a cab. None would pick us up to Brooklyn, people! And pulling a suitcase through snow? The wheels don’t work. We finally limp down a flight of stairs to the subway station with all our suitcases, etc., purchase Metro Cards, and turn to enter the turnstiles — which were all gated off. I promptly started laughing. (Thank god that’s my typical response to stress!!! It was like 2 in the morning!) And as my reward, a man exited through an emergency gate, which I caught and waved Amy in.

“But we’re breaking the law!” she said.

“I don’t care! I’m not dragging that suitcase up those stairs.”

The A arrived right afterwards and we were safely delivered home. Ay caramba.

Asian American writer or Writer? True or untrue? Caf or decaf?

So many choices. This weekend’s show at the Kitchen Theatre had some interesting questions. One young Korean American woman asked whether I preferred to be considered an Asian American writer or just a writer? And as always, I come up with witty comebacks HOURS after it really matters.

Oh, I said something intelligible, but here’s what I would love to say: A good story is a good story. You can’t ignore the socioeconomic context of a character, and I do think it’s good to crank out work that describes people who do not get as much coverage as others. And I’m serious about always including a Korean American character in scripts and stories, so that someone who looks like me can play the person in the movies. I also believe how we represent people in art can impact how we treat each other in real life. I’m not interested in perpetuating stereotypes–that’s not real, they’re not human. We do need more Asian American characters who are not Chinese food delivery guys with accents, hookers, nerds, etc., but also, that idea alone doesn’t create the heart of a good story. You can’t write a story from a place of “I’m a Korean American.” It’s got to be how you feel about it — I feel alienated it, I love it, I feel ostracized from it, or SOMETHING. It’s got to be a feeling, not just a theory. And every story, swear to goodness, if it’s really good, is something anyone can all relate to.

Still, as long as we have the option of choosing which prism to see through, why not Asian American characters? It’s not like the market is flooded with them.

And to the one gentleman who requested where he could find my fiction, I will post publications on this site. I’m a little leery of sharing fiction, mostly b/c I think my fake stories are so much more revealing than my true ones. 


Bored? Lonely? Have four hours to drive?

MomAcrossPoster.jpg Come see My Mom Across America featuring myself, the lovely Amy Kohn on accordion, and the saucy Jesse Jou as director in Ithaca, New York this weekend — February 23 through 25th at the Kitchen Theatre.

Go to for more info! We’re so excited to go up and have fun, and escape NYC for the weekend!!!

Celeb Sighting

Verizon Weird, I took the subway uptown on Monday to buy a triangle mallet, and who sits across me with his novel but the Verizon guy. Same haircut, same glasses. Very odd to be so close to him! And what I do with all famous people in my vicinity, I think about them for a short intense time, for the duration that they’re in my obrit. Why is he riding the subway? He’s like in a kabillion commercials, this guy has got to be loaded. His family in Westchester probably still remember in “Pippin” in the ninth grade and how he showed something special, but till he booked this recent gig, they still thought he should give law school a whirl. Perhaps his friends in Brooklyn still invite him for parties on Saturday which he shows up less and less for. Some will say he hasn’t changed, others will think he’s definitely gotten a little too big for the britches, but only Verizon guy will really know if he’s different or not.

Sad. That’s why I can’t handle being near famous people. Kirsten Johnson once worked out at my old, now defunct gym West Village Workout (which I loved because the average gym user age was like 66. Awesome!) and I thought about her and “Third Rock” the whole time. Too distracting.

Celebs I have seen:

* Verizon guy

* Kirsten Johnson

* Woody Allen and Soon Yi Previn

* Natalie Portman

* Scully or Gillian Anderson

* Sapphire, the poet who wrote “Push” (No one else recognized her in African dance class. I’m like, oh my god, that’s Sapphire. Maybe b/c I was in publishing when her book came out and I saw her author photo a kabillion times.)

* Michael Stipe (tiny in person. very pretty blue eyes)

Comforting Jennifer Aniston

tina_aniston_smaller.jpg Love hurts, you guys, when only one’s in love. Happy belated Valentine’s Day!

The only Valentine’s Day I can remember, before I met my husband, was in high school when I went out to see “Hannah and Her Sisters” with my parents on Valentine’s Day. It was a Saturday night to boot, so running into hordes of teens my age was especially humiliating. I remember thinking, we can’t all be like Justine Bateman. (She hosted SNL some night on V-Day and talked about how it was her favorite holiday.)

Regarding the photo, okay, I know, it doesn’t really look like Jennifer Aniston. This was at Madame Tussaud’s. Aren’t wax figures creepy? I can’t watch “House of Wax” with Paris Hilton, because that’s about wax people coming to life — and they look like that as it is. I don’t really need to see an enactment of this actually coming true! This picture was like one second before I freaked out because I thought she moved. Photo courtesy of friend/director Jesse Jou for our upcoming production of “My Mom Across America” in Ithaca this weekend.

Ack, I can’t make the photo any smaller. I even recruited my cousin Ed to help, so that now at least you see the whole picture instead of just a section of my ear. (He’s the one who helped me with this site–thanks Ed!–if you want to hire him, go to Anyway, sorry, it’s so freaking GIGANTIC!!! — never mind, ed and i figured it out.

What’s on TV at 4 a.m.

sleep Sleep, elusive sleep. Man, there’s very little in the world I love as much as sleep. (Well, that’s not true exactly. I love sleep, I love my bed, but I also love my husband, my parents, my friends, ice cream, vacation, a $10 bottle of red wine (oh yeah, I live large) the list goes on. I’m crazy about ice cream.) But after our Philly excursion, I came back with a fever and took Thera Flu on Wednesday night and proceeded to stay up till 4 a.m.! David was out till late so he didn’t witness me lying down for thirty minutes, getting up for thirty, down for thirty, up for thirty. It was terrible. You lie there, thinking about everything you have to do in the morning, what you have to be alert for. You get angry at yourself for not being asleep. I mean, what’s the big deal? All I usually have to do is lie in bed or put my head down on my desk, and then BOOM, I’m out, sleep comes as easily as writing my novel never does.

When David finally came home, he listened to my woes and then promptly fell into a snoring doze. I couldn’t believe it. The guy never falls asleep easily. Usually, he’s the one parading around the apartment in the middle of the night. In one of my thirty-minute up sessions I stared at him sleeping peacefully and realized I hated everyone who was sleeping right then there. I was so envious.

I shouldn’t complain about sleep, at least to my mom friends with small babies, going through baby boot camp, where they don’t really sleep more than two hours at a time and then have to get up and breastfeed or whatever it is that they do.

Eventually, I watched a lot of TV, and here’s the real reason why I wanted to post this. What was on at 4 a.m.:

*An old episode of Alias

*An old episode of that Mulder and Scully show (ack, my memory is terrible).

*A rerun of Jay Leno


*A special on how older women celebrities were getting booked for ads now to appeal to the older audience like Christie Brinkeley for CoverGirl, Raquel Welch for Mac, Elizabeth Hurley for Jordache, Diane Keaton for Loreal.
(Seriously, did Raquel Welch sign a pact with the devil? How is it that she has no wrinkles and she’s over 60? Plastic surgeons aren’t THAT good, are they? Do they really think women will relate to that kind of luck? And by the way, Elizabeth Hurley is not an average looking human being, hello.)

*Commercials starring people you know.
(I saw my friend Sam’s Hallmark commercial. His only line is kind of a grunt, or like a Latino kind of noise? I have no idea how to describe it. He imitates the accent of this Valentine’s Day stuffed animal).

Music Makes the Bourgeosie and the Rebel

singersinger I love to sing, but am unfortunately only mildly talented in this area. My singing talent peaked in 1985 when I shocked my fourth grade teacher at P.S. 55 in Staten Island when I got up and sang all of my heart out “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” from “Fiddler on the Roof.” “Tina Lee!” Mrs. Sybil Warnick the teacher said, she was floored, more because I never said a word in class, never mind sang a whole song. I was intensely shy, but she was casting “Fiddler on the Roof” that year, and boy, did I want a part, so I told myself to do it and I blushed like a tomato for hours before and after, but it was the first time I really went for something. It was a character defining moment. I got cast as Golda, the mother character, in “Fiddler on the Roof,” beginning my long, twisted, confused road on my Korean-Jewish American identity. That same year, my family and I went to visit Korea for the first time since I was born and my relatives begged me to sing songs from “Grease.” (And I was too shy to oblige, though I had many, many fantasies of being Olivia Newton-John and had acted out the end scene in the amusement park with some other little kid peers who shared my same babysitter.) (Another aside: I think my friend Becca actually wished Olivia Newton-John was her mother. That’s kind of weird, huh.)

I remember an article in the Times or some such Commie rag (heh heh, I’m kidding, I read it like every hour) that analyzed the vocal ranges of current pop singers. Morrissey and Madonna apparently have the smallest range of all recording artists today (perfect for me), which brings me to my next topic — songs to choose when in a kareoke bar.

Songs that show off your voice well:

*La Isla Bonita by Madonna
*Anything by the Smiths or Morrissey
*About the Weather by 10,000 Maniacs
*Sk8ter Boi by Avril Lavigne
*Don’t You Want Me by Human League

Songs you shouldn’t sing, unless you excel at this sort of thing, or you’re just drunk:
*Your Song by Elton John
*Kiss by Prince (Please, for those of us who came of age in the 90s, it’s hard to witness people’s private, sensual selves come out whenever this song is on. Perhaps, I just speak for myself.)
*Anything by Melissa Etheridge
*Welcome to the Jungle by Guns n’ Roses
*Endless Love by Diana Ross and Lionel Richie. (I just tried it. Very hard to sing a song where the vocalists are like actually really good.)


winners The only thing worse than having peers who are more successful than you is having people who are younger outdo you. (My friend Jenn came up with the latter point when a young alumni from her college starred in “Carrie, Part 2.”) You know Morrissey, lead singer of the Smiths? He recorded the very peppy, sweet-sounding tune “We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful,” which makes me laugh.

Do I want my friends to be well, happy, productive, and successful? Of course I do! But I wouldn’t mind cornering one of those adjectives for myself either. I have a friend who is an internationally renown poet (in fact, I no longer refer to her by her name but by Internationally Renown Poet, and she’s friends with all the young, hot novelists whose books are being turned into movies. She’s a really nice woman and when she heard me bemoaning my average fate, she tried to comfort me with “Don’t worry, you’re young. You’ll get your book published,” which I thought was very sweet, but I also think untrue. I don’t live in a world where you can presume success is yours the way she, and the other top literary talent of the country, are able to. I might have a few years ago, as a promising young undergrad at a prestigious Ivy League university, but baby, those days are long gone along with my awesome (never appreciated) metabolism rate.

Briefly, I thought of joining the Alumni Club, to, I don’t know, somehow assimilate myself into greatness, listen to lectures, quote Kierkeguaard and Kant over a hot toddy and cigar in tastefully decorated, revered halls. I would breathe a sigh of relief, knowing I have finally arrived. BUT the fees to join are insanely high and frequent, and I don’t really need to spend money like that to fantasize when there’re plenty of places I can do that for FREE, like I dunno, at the library, in front of the boob tube, over my favorite jigsaw puzzle, etc.

The trick is to be happy anyway. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!!


Phillywaffles My friend Becca and I traveled to Philly to visit Sung-Ji, Greg, Danny, Kirsten, and Danny and Kirsten’s brood of Simon (7), Bishop (3 or 4), and Koan (1 or so) “what is the sound of one cheek farting” Kashock. (Not my koan joke; see Katherine Min’s short story about dating a monk.) As soon as the boys arrived to Sung-Ji’s house, they hit the ground running, relaying from the living room to the kitchen and back, wrestling, using each other as horses, smothering each other. It was like being in a pin ball machine all of a sudden. Amazing how little they were and yet the entire atmosphere exploded once they arrived.

Sung-Ji made an amazing chicken pot pie and salad with a fancy dressing I like talking about but will probably never make. Then two kinds of waffles and maple syrup sausage for brunch the next day. All weekend, I skipped my friend Jesse’s advice of always being at a “five” on a hunger scale of 1 to 10 and got seconds, which made me feel like this:

Miss Piggy

which is too bad because really, we would all prefer to feel like this:

Dolly Parton

No heat!

heat miser! Oh man, when my folks moved to Brooklyn this fall at my behest, it was a gigantic, life-changing move — for them. They left their house of more than twenty years in idyllic, suburban New Jersey, to a smaller apartment, a more low-maintenance home near me, a total big deal. We moved them, so that the two of them would no longer have to shovel snow, drive a car, climb onto the roof to empty the gutter, or obsess over the flooding garage. But now, every time something goes wrong with their apartment, I feel an overwhelming amount of guilt. Although I really try to help their sense of well-being, I flip when things go wrong, and the transition has been anything but smooth or cheap. First of all, with any NYC-area property, you spend less time looking at it than a piece of clothing — that’s how nutty the market is. And only after living in the new pad have problems come up. The latest being the LACK OF HEAT.

Last Thursday was their first night with heat or hot water. As usual, Dad goes with the flow and Mom bemoans her tragic fate in life. After we agreed they could survive the night in their apartment, I watched Fox News announce it as “the coldest night of the year,” estimating the number of homeless and families without heat would DIE that night, which freaked me out. I worry about them — they are officially seniors, frail and tiny, as well as 100% fat-free. (Their lack of body fat makes me wonder if I am adopted, among other characteristics they exhibit). Like, among my nicknames in Korean for them (list is short, due to the fact I don’t speak the language) is meh-doh-chee (this tiny, puny dried fish) and kah-shee (fish bone).

While I was away this weekend, they somehow figured out who to hire to do this and that, something to do with a five-year-old boiler being dirty and needing to be replaced for five hundred dollars, which stresses us all out and makes me feel entirely responsible. I can’t help it — I feel responsible for the weather, the weird, sneaky things the pad reveals. But hopefully, HOPEFULLY, life will slow down and things will quit falling apart.