karem abdul jabar bio project

Last spring, Girl Wonder Twin chose Karem Abdul Jabar as her bio project subject, and although she remained unimpressed even after we read about eight articles together, I think he is so cool! After an extraordinary sports-ball career, where he is like rated the among the top five players of all time, which is wild when you think when he was playing, how short the b-ball shorts were. I’m not even being that facetious. I just mean, athletics have changed like crazy and there seems to be massive improvements in equipment and method and I don’t know, DRUGS.

In any case, after an illustrious sports life, he was friends with Bruce Lee who asked him to come and have a part in “The Last Dragon.” So he got to star in not just any old martial arts film, but an old school classic! He converted is Islam in his twenties, he graduated from UCLA, he’s written books. The dude has had a wide and rich variety of such different life experiences. I’m so dazzled. Girl Wonder Twin was less so and couldn’t wait to wrap up the project.

marc maron/wtf pod cast

I think I am falling in love with Marc Maron.

During Pandemic 2020, I have been getting sucked into Marc Maron’s podcast WTF, a little bit after watching him on the excellent show Glow, but mostly because I began reading articles of how he tragically lost his girlfriend suddenly this year. He has decided to grieve publicly. He weeps on his podcast, he talks about what eats and how he’s up and down. When interview subjects express condolences, he breaks down. It’s very real and raw, and damn, I find it compelling. This what drew me to acting originally — that kind of honesty. It’s a realm where people can express themselves without adornment. And in most places of life, you don’t get that directness. That’s why theater lit me up when I encountered it decades ago. (Of course, as you travel down the road of being an actor, that might change and get more complicated, but still, that’s the original spark for me. Despite this, it’s not as if actors are my people necessarily, but I think they’re better at being vulnerable in person than a lot of writers I meet. But maybe I just have a different barometer. I’m very honest in how I express myself, which is why some acquaintances think we’re best friends. Husband point this trait out to me.)

This guy expresses himself truthfully. It may be the result of his life as a performer and writer, or participant of AA meetings. (Should I go to those meetings for my authenticity fix? I just like hearing how people are really doing.) He did a wonderful interview with President Obama in 2015, and I just so enjoyed it. You can hear how nervous and out of his mind he is to meet Obama, and of course, Obama is like a balm to our collective soul. (Volume 1 of his memoir just got released, which I am going to check out and am not being paid to plug here, ha ha ha.) I know Obama was not a perfect president, but he was decent, brilliant at so many things, and spiritual — and just, please, I don’t need to go on and on about how his presidency has paid dividends for us — or maybe I will just speak for myself since our country is so divided — me. This interview was just a nice happy spot in this endless pandemic.

But maybe you need to “earn” it. You can’t start with the pinnacle episode. You have to go through the ups and downs in order to be genuinely invested in this performer’s happiness and excitement. I’m relishing this experience after listening to a bundle of these episodes, some of which are dull, some fascinating, depending on the subject matter. (Cate Blanchette, utterly boring. Stacey Abrams, incredible. Did you know she has a law degree, has several romance books published, and adores physics? I adore her.) This podcast has been around at least ten years, during which I was blissfully unaware of its existence. But now, that we are cooking and washing dishes ad nauseum, and we are all together all the time, it’s really helped make pandemic life more pleasant.

Warning: there is a liberal use of the F word. My children have now heard every curse word under the sun when they walk through the kitchen, but they have assured me they have already heard all these words before.

who even are you

Right now, First Son’s favorite school is math and least favorite is art. He drags his body around the apartment when an art assignment is due as if he’s completely forgotten how to walk. He slithers with despair and says “oh my god I hate this. Why do I have to do art? How long do I have take art? It’s literally the worst.”

Say what now? Art was my favorite class, I love drawing and painting and filled so many hours just drawing weird life stories of made-up characters. When I hear him discuss math with the same adoration I use to describe art, I’m am taken aback and I find it totally wild we are related and yet have such different brains.

packrat wins

I have two friends who are pretty strict about decluttering — at least when it comes to my stuff. Sonya came over to my old apartment and every time I asked about an item, she said “nope, throw it out.” She wouldn’t even let me drop things off at good will. She just bullied me into tossing three giant garbage bags. She was right though because I cannot remember what was in those bags. When I asked her if I should throw out my old collection of acrylic paints from my undergrad days, she said no. Say what now? Doesn’t keeping them mean I’m clinging to my old artist identity or something? She didn’t explain. Then I asked Nancy as backup, and she typically says TOSS IT, and inexplicably, this time, she said to keep the paints. I was totally bewildered. Where was their typical ruthless spirit?

Anyway, I’m happy to report, deacdes after I initially purchased my paints, Wonder Twins requested acrylic paints in order to create Fortnite Halloween costumes. I have handed the entire collection over. My hoarding ways have paid off! And gee whiz, it only took thirty years.

school

You know what’s great about remote school? It’s like I get to go to third and fifth grade all over again — while looking for a job. Yay!

how i show and receive love

* I agree to listen to “Welcome to the Jungle” on the piano for the fortieth time. (First Son is obsessed with figuring out how to play classic rock and pop songs on the piano and ukelele. It’s great, but…”Welcome to the Jungle” is legit 15 minutes long and he feels neglected the moment you space out.)
* I lost my job and I am not telling my mom. (This the kindest way.)
* As soon as I see Husband is in physical pain, I tap him out and corral the kids to leave him alone.
* My friends, upon hearing of my lay off, offer to annihilate my employers, and in the next breath, remind me it’s a giant blessing. (That’s pretty cool).
* Although we are all pretty sick of each other, I still get hugs from the kids in the middle of the day, and that is admittedly pretty nice.
* I have bought the children ice cream, slushies, icies, popsicles, candy, doritos, and other Forbidden Foods more this season than any other time in their life. I’m not trying to make them disgusting, but jees, it’s a rough time. Why not have a little treat?

pandemic parenting highlights

1) We caught Boy Wonder Twin snacking in bed from a bag of sugar. (He was settling for some self-care time with a book, lying down, with a bag of…sugar. Not even chips, or candy, but white, granulated sugar. I was afraid to ask Husband if he was just grabbing it with his hands or at least had a spoon. Nope.

2) I pulled my back. Yay! I’m mortal!

3) I am being furloughed. Hooray!

4) The apartment is a colossal mess. Woo hoo! I feel like I’m in an anti-gravity chamber when I walk through, priorities flit from my mind.

5) First Son has taught himself ukelele. He started with simple Beatles tunes and now plays Guns n’ Roses and Metallica. I have not picked up any new skills. I eat a great deal more of ice cream though. Initially, a child playing a fey instrument was utterly charming. Now, if I hear him pluck out “Sweet Child of Mine” any more, i may murder myself.

6) I go into the office once a week. It is empty, and yet, every week, a fly hovers over my face the entire time. Am I disgusting? Am I Pig Pen? Or is it so lonely, he needs to fly up into my grill like that?

7) Girl Wonder Twin seems okay. She has perfected her withering look, complete with a slow blink and lifting her wrist as if she wears a watch, implying I am behind.

8) Boy Wonder Twins is losing his mind. He hates remote schooling, seeing his sister all the time, and the pandemic with a fiery passion (see number 1).I do think everything is going a bit smoother this fall than last spring. It’s early though. I could be wrong.

parenting in the time of quarantine (continued from previous)

I think it’s cute that in my previous post on parenting during quarantine, I outlined tricks and rules. Ha ha, that innocent version of me knew nothing, because with everything, everything changes over time. Part of our challenge is when will this actually end? When you have a sense of time or deadline, you can pace yourself properly. When the deadline is infinite, undetermined, amorphous, well, my friends, we are having to completely re-learning how to parent. All our old tricks are out. This is a completely different skill set.

Homeschooling has never been my bag, so working virtually for my own job has been more of my priority. We do not monitor First Son at all, but Wonder Twins definitely need a closer eye. Husband is naturally and professionally a teacher, so he was the home school guy! We found a rhythm in the first month of quarantine of daily soccer, art, yoga, along time, school/work. But it was too good to last. Slowly, everyone has begun to rebel. Soccer/art/yoga has led to battle of wills, storming off-tantrums, long, stony silences. After one particular home school battle, Wonder Twin Boy and Husband did not speak to each other for two days.

black lives matter

On my office family call, someone piped up and said “I just want you to know cops are good people. Just because of a few bad apples, we’re not bad people.”

I don’t know why that turn of phrase keeps coming up over and over again with regard to police brutality — “a few bad apples.” This gentleman made this comment after a series of non-white employees who never say anything opened up and presented their vulnerability for all of us. There are no other professions that perform poorly that gets excused as just being “a few bad apples.” Does that anyone say that about doctors? Does anyone say that about airplane pilots?

No one is real at work. That’s really for the best, because it’s such an intersection of different beliefs, but on this call, a Black colleague opened up and delivered such an articulate, emotional speech on how in addition to COVID stress and home schooling, he has to worry about whether he is going to come home alive that night. After he spoke up, I opened my mouth and talked about taking a look at my own biases and privilege, because despite my own experience with racism, I’m never worried I’m going to die at the hands of police, or if my children will.

And it’s not like what I had to say was so great. I’m just practicing speaking up because that is something I can do. We now live in a time where silence means being complicit. If you don’t speak, you are sending the message you are okay with the current state of things. That’s not okay with me. I’m also sending emails and have signed up for a local racial equality group. These are small steps that make me feel better.

Some white co-workers mentioned how they were color-blind (which I did not challenge as a unicorn. That is not a real thing…or maybe it is for some white men because they never think about race?)

We have to collectively let go of the idea that we are good people, that good people aren’t racist. Good people do bad things. I’m sure there are people in the KKK who love their families and enjoy barbecues. They’re still racists.

When I hear calls to “End White Silence,” I always felt left out. As an Asian person in this country, you’re just kind of straining your ear whenever someone lists all the races in the US for the word “Asian,” and more often than not, we are not mentioned. All I want is to be seen! As I have told friends, why can’t we be included in this plea to improve? After all, Asians are racist! We have biases! Some of us are even Republicans!

I have changed my mind. I don’t think this is about me. This is a call on the majority group in power in this country to change, but that I can include myself in this group.

This is a very messy, disorganized post, but I just need to get it out. I have thought about race for years, and have been reading books this past year in particular that have shifted my consciousness, but this month is the first time I thought my own complicity. That is a RUDE awakening. While I have been noticing how much our country really has never gotten over the Civil War, I have never included myself as the oppressor. After all, I’m an immigrant! I just got here really! (I’ve heard some white folks say the same thing, that they did not personally own slaves, so how are they responsible for racist havoc today?) The truth is we are all enjoying a country built by slave labor. The truth is, as a non-Black person, I have been benefiting from racism against Blacks, at the same time, benefiting as a non-White person from Black advocacy.

That is the big switch. This is like reading a novel written in third person to realize it’s in first person. And the obligation I now feel to speak up, to help, to share the burden of educating other non-Black folks about racism has brought up this old feeling — this like trembling excitement but also recognition that this is the call I have to answer. I used to get that feeling when I first began to audition and pursue acting. And I have the feeling, as I did back then, if I ignore this call, I will regret it for the rest of my life.

pandemic normal (drafted April 3)

Nobody I talk to is doing great. Everyone has at least a low level of anxiety. Totes rational reaction to the fabric of our society breaking down. I have broke down in tears here and there, but mostly I feel tremendously exhausted. Anxiety is draining!

The two things that have helped me turn a corner:
1) This speech from a hospital executive: This was early on where my greatest anxiety was the thought that society would fall apart, that we were never coming back to a functional infrastructure. This guy was the first person to state that life will go on, that it will suck, but then we will get back on track. Listening to people who, at least on the surface, seem to be taking things in stride, state facts in an unaffected manner, are tremendously grounding.
2) My Albanian super. Without fail, in quarantine and pre-quarantine days, when you ask him how he is, he always answers “Very good. Cannot complain.” He is among the hardest working people I know, and I have already told Husband we cannot move unless our super leaves. I ran in to him one day in March after shopping, and he asked if I got everything I needed. “Yes, everything but toilet paper.” He rolled his eyes, and said, “You know, Albania, we went through a war, so we know how to prepare. Canned goods, candles, but toilet paper?”

He just gestured like he was totally perplexed. “In a bad situation, nobody worried about toilet paper.”

I laughed so hard. Some days, we are total schmucks, the dumbest species. I laughed until I teared up, and that made me feel so normal and that things would be okay.