Monday, December 29, 2008

You Can Only Go Back in Your Dreams

They say you can never go home again, that once you've left for any extended period of time, home will be an essentially different place when you return. Last night I discovered: in your dreams you can go back again.

I was in Korea. It was winter. I was with my friends and we were planning a trip to Sokcho. An adventurous trek through the icy, imposing mountains. Ending at a small cozy inn near the ocean. Where we cooked food indoors. Slices of beef and pork. Glasses of soju. Laughter. Warmth. In my dream, the light was strangely muted. Melancholy. Reminding me that I was in a dream. And in fact, the distinct feeling I had throughout was one of contentment. Which is an emotion that rarely manifests itself when you're in the moment. It only comes with hindsight.

Tonight I heard there are two ways to be rich. The first is to make a lot of money. The other way is to learn how to be happy with less. To realize that you've got a lot when you're surrounded by friends and family, good food and drink when the world outside is a cold, bitter place.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Withdrawal Symptoms

Giving up smoking was probably one of the hardest things I had to do when I found out that I was HIV+. Seriously, and sadly, there are few friends in this world who can do what a cigarette does: provide companionship, pleasure and understanding all in the scope of a few minutes, and then leave without saying a word. No one in their right mind gives up smoking. The only way to account for some people kicking the habit is that we all get a lot crazier as we get older. Crankier. Lonelier.

If I didn't know it before, I know it now: that serious sickness and withdrawal go hand in hand. My father, who had been clamoring to leave the hospital the first two days he was there, no longer wants to leave the hospital. He does not want to watch the Jets game on Sunday, even though their whole season depends on it. He refuses to talk to me about the Australian Open this January. He is perfectly content to lay in his bed with the lights off and the curtains closed. I, of course, am not. So I berated him. And told him to get up and sit in a chair. And then take a walk around the hospital floor. And brush his teeth. And shave. Which he eventually did. I am not ready for my father's Withdrawal.

It was seven months before I was brave enough to face the world after I found out I was HIV+ in 2004. As of late, I find myself wanting to shut out the world again. It's a crappy world to be sure, with flecks of happiness scattered in a mosaic of general miserableness. Why can't it be the other way around? Why can't the evening news be 90% good news and 10% bad news? Why is ours a culture so obsessed with negativity? Would a news channel that reported 90% good news be a financially viable vehicle? Can human beings exist as a primarily happy creature? I wish we all had the courage to find out.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Sitting With Dad

The good news came early yesterday. Dad does not have cancer. You never know what good news is until you hear the words: he does not have cancer. What he did have was a serious liver infection that required minor, yet still painful, surgery. And further tests on his gall bladder. And weeks of antibiotic treatments that will leave him much weakened. I sat with him for 16 hours in the hospital as he drifted in and out of consciousness, holding his hand, the one that held the wedding band of white gold. The wedding band that he had never removed for over forty years. The one the doctor made him remove while he had the surgery. I was surprised to learn that it could come off. I had always thought it looked rather painful, appearing ingrown onto his finger.

When I was five, I had my first real Christmas. It was Dec. 24. My brother and I were allowed to stay up until midnight. That's when Santa would appear and bring us our presents. But we didn't have a chimney so I wondered where he was going to come from. We soon had our answer: he was coming up the stairs from the basement. The sound of those heavy footsteps coming up the stairs was making my heart burst with anticipation and excitement. And there he was. Santa. When you're five, and going through Christmas for the first time, I guess it's easy to forget that Dad isn't anywhere in the room. And you believe the story your Mom makes up that he's working late.

My brother and I sat on Santa's lap for all the obligatory pictures. Years and years later, my Mom would tell me that I kept feeling Santa's hand. The one with the white gold wedding band. That I kept looking at that damn ring that was going to blow Santa's cover. She couldn't help feeling nervous and upset at the same time. How could Dad have forgotten to take off that wedding band? Was I going to suddenly burst out, "You're not Santa! You're Dad!" Well, not that Christmas. And not the next one either. And then of course, my brother and I grew up and there was no fooling us anymore.

Last night in the hospital, as I held Dad's hand again after 33 years, feeling his wedding band, I no longer wondered who he was. I only wondered how 33 years had gone by so terrifyingly quickly. And how another 33 years would go by equally quickly. If I was lucky enough to be around for another 33 years.

Merry Christmas and great thanks to all who have been readers of this blog. Be happy, be well. Live in the present. My wish this season is that everyone will have a ring to hold on to in 33 years.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Dad

When I first learned I was HIV+, I visited a clinic once a month for blood work and counseling. Having just been deported from Korea, having lost my friends, job and relatives, those monthly visits provided comfort and security, and most importantly, a schedule. They gave me something to look forward to. And someone to talk to. The clinic has a number of doctors--I only have to go twice a year now--but my favorite was an Indian woman who found a way to talk to me about so many other things besides HIV. Family. Literature. Life in New York City. But on one visit we had a sobering discussion about HIV. But she was still encouraging. Telling me that HIV was manageable (which it really has turned out to be.) Not unpredictable like cancer. That if she had to choose between HIV and cancer, she would choose to be HIV+. I tried to smile.

Today I cried. My dad is in the hospital. The doctors think he may have stomach cancer. My aunt died of stomach cancer this past fall. It was a slow, painful death. Her final days were marked by dosages of morphine. Life is just so full of sadness. And unpredictability. Dad's birthday is in a few days, and this is really not how we had planned to celebrate.

Before I left him at the hospital tonight, I leaned down to give him a hug. He couldn't lift his arms. So he reached up his lips and kissed me. I love you Dad.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

All I Want for Christmas...

How are we supposed to go about living in such a bankrupt world? Why do I want to join the kids in Greece who are rioting their brains out because the world is such a pile of shit? If anyone is reading this, here's my list of Top 10 Things I Want for Christmas:

1. Someone to burn down the house of Merrill Lynch's CEO John Thain who asked for (and was turned down by the Board) a $10 million bonus for safely leading his company into financial oblivion.

2. Someone to bash in Illinois governor Blagojevich's head, effectively removing his genes from the gene pool of humanity.

3. Someone to buy Jesse Jackson, Jr. a billion clues when it comes to buying Senate seats on the black market from sociopathic Illinois governors, and then bust his ass into prison.

4. Someone to blow up Bank of America's headquarters, specifically the billions of dollars that they got in bailout money that is just sitting in their vaults and not helping Joe Factory Worker.

5. Someone to obliterate Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe and save him the cost of a trip to hell where 99% of his citizens are now living.

6. Someone to banish AIG to a black hole in a galaxy far, far away, but not before forcing it to cough up the $200 billion in loan money it got from the federal government so their top executives could have facials at a California spa.

7. A lawyer in California to befriend that Korean man in San Diego whose wife, mother and two daughters were killed when a US military plane crashed into his house, and get him a billion dollar settlement from the money we'd get back from AIG.

8 and 9. I can do without if I could just have 10!

10. Have the world agree that January 20, 2009 can be tomorrow, the same day that Texas is thrown out of the United States for producing the worst leader in the history of the universe.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

I Am a Vampire

With all the fuss over Twilight this weekend, the new teen vampire movie, a lot of people are going to miss the other vampire movie playing, Let the Right One In. Of course not many people were going to see this second movie anyway seeing as it's an import from Sweden and only playing in the city at the Angelika (which was packed with people lining up to see Slumdog Millionaire.)

I can't say I'm the biggest fan of vampire movies. In fact, I can't think of a single one I've seen. Maybe I felt possessed to see one today because I've been feeling a lot like a living dead person--just going through the motions, unable to find death. An end. Resolution. Something. I called up a couple of people to see it, but no one was answering their phones. Maybe they're all dead, too.

Let the Right One In is about two 12 year-old kids, a boy and a girl, both desperately lonely, and in desperate situations. It was amazing that two such young kids could wring out such powerful performances, something I will have to remember when writing future screenplays. Watching this movie, one learns that a vampire must be invited into a room before it can enter; otherwise, it dies. I'm not sure if this rule is part of the original vampire lore, but for someone like me, I accepted it at face value. And after I finished watching, I realized what a brilliant metaphor the filmmaker had created.

A lot of us are vampires. We certainly didn't start out that way. But somewhere along the way, we inadvertently invited the wrong people to enter into our lives. People who sucked the blood out of us without managing to kill us. Not because they were necessarily evil but because that was what they had to do in order to survive. And once a vampire has bitten us without killing us, we are destined to be vampires forever. Until we choose to walk into the light. And meet our deaths.

I am a vampire. If you are kind to me, and invite me into your heart, I won't harm you. But if you're one of those who ends up crossing me, pray that I kill you. It's no fun being a vampire. Always alone. In search of the blood that lets you live for another lonely night.

Monday, October 27, 2008

I'm Voting for Barack McCain

Election Day is some time soon, in the near future, a day that can't arrive soon enough, a dawn that will hit me on the head like a frying pan. Get here for crying out loud already. I am so sick of election coverage, but at the same time I can't do anything to vomit it out of my system. It just stays in my stomach, churning and burning, causing alternate bouts of anger, nausea and bloating. After nearly two years, I can honestly say I don't know much about Barack Obama other than he was born in Hawaii, was raised a Muslim in Indonesia, dropped out of Harvard to join Al Qaeda in Botswana, has three boys, one of whom has Down Syndrome. Let's see... what else do I know? Oh yes, he's black but was married to a white woman who perished in Hurricane Katrina. He is going to raise everyone's taxes by at least 150% and is planning on building a new Presidential retreat in North Korea because the real estate prices there are so cheap. I will not be voting on Election Day anyway because New York's electoral votes automatically go to the Democratic candidate by law.

I really think they should have had a show like Project President, modeled on Project Runway where each week the candidates would have competed in a challenge and we could have seen who they really were. This week's challenge: kill as many people in Pakistan without using a nuclear weapon. Next week? Redecorate the White House with a budget of $100. The final challenge? Fix the economic shit we're in.... NOW!!! The debates told me absolutely nothing about Obama and McCain other than the fact that neither of them could debate effectively.

I am so ready to quit being an American. Let's hope 2009 gives me new hope to be proud of this country again.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

I DON'T HAVE HIV!!!!! I WAS JUST FAKING IT AS A JOKE!!!

Yeah, I don't have HIV. I was just trying to see if people out there would be sympathetic to me if I said that I did. And it turned out that people were not sympathetic at all. The majority of them turned out to be 100% certified assholes who could give classes in how to become producers of the ugliest shit you have ever seen. What a hilarious experiment this has been!!!! LOL.... For the past five years I have been lying to everyone in the whole world, bringing scorn and shame on myself (especially at the pharmacy last week when they couldn't locate my meds and the girl at the front counter basically SHOUTED out to the store, "Why can't I find this man's HIV meds?" and everyone including the pharmacists was giving me the nastiest looks.) But now I think it's time that I ended this charade because five years of taking medicines that I really don't need in the name of a social experiment was probably a bit excessive. I can now go back to having unsafe sex because HIV is shit that happens to other people, not me!!!! LOL!!! Hey world!!! I WAS JUST KIDDING!!! I DON'T REALLY HAVE HIV! I CAN'T WAIT TO PUBLISH THE RESULTS OF THIS EXPERIMENT ON GAY WEBSITES EVERYWHERE! Boy, people were so naive and gullible. Everyone just believed me when I said I was HIV+!!! LOL!! It will be such a relief to join the world of HIV- people again. I hope the entire HIV- world will thank me for having conducted such a worthwhile experiment--proving that HIV- people are pretty much ignorant, uncaring, evil, vile individuals who all deserve to be shot in the groin, or at least be radio talk show hosts in Minneapolis. (And YES!!!, that is ME in the picture! I am Langdon Perry and I have HIV!!! PSYC!!!)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

What Am I Angry At?

When gay people in NYC post an ad on craigslist or chat on gay.com and say they are "just looking for friends" that is the biggest lie in the world. I should know because I tell this lie all the time. What gay people really mean by "just looking for friends" is "I am looking to start out as friends with someone who I think could potentially be a long-term relationship guy." That is the truth. Let's face it, if we were just "looking for friends" that person could be ugly, or fat, or ultra-conservative, or someone who does not speak English that well, or smelly, or hairy or a drug addict. "Looking for friends" means you'd better be attractive, have a good job, be well-educated, have sparkling conversation. The list goes on and on.

I recently met two HIV- guys who said they wanted to be "friends". But looking at the way they dressed up for our first dates, it was obvious that no one wanted to be "just friends". I'm sorry, but no one gets that dressed up for just their "friends". And then of course, I mentioned that I was HIV+ and I never got a phone call from either again. I don't know whether to continue accepting this rejection and being disappointed or going on a rampage of revenge, infecting every HIV- guy out there that I can. I've blogged before about how this virus inside me makes me feel like the Incredible Hulk--it turns me into a different person when I get angry. Very angry. And both of these guys made me feel just that.

Of course, I would never intentionally infect anyone. But I wouldn't be surprised if there were other HIV+ guys out there that would. Anger can unleash itself very unexpectedly sometimes. So, to the HIV- community out there, if you're going to reject us, at least have the courtesy to tell us explicitly instead of not taking our calls and deleting our e-mails. And be caring in your rejection. Say that HIV is something that you cannot come to terms with because it scares the hell out of you. (It's not that scary anymore after living with it for five years.) The point is: keep the communication flowing. It's when people stop talking that fear and ignorance have room to grow, and before you know it, they are larger than life itself. I won't deny that I get angry at myself for having gotten infected in the first place. But I only get this way when provoked.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Last Time Phil Lifted His Leg Up Like That Was When...

The world is in a financial meltdown, but you'd never have known it from the way these two kids were playing golf this afternoon. I've always loved my baby Anthony, but today he made me love Phil who has always seemed lifeless to me. I think the problem with Phil is that he has made too much money to enjoy golf as a game anymore. But today he high-fived like there was no tomorrow. Fortunate for us golf fans, there is a tomorrow.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Hang In There, Friend

An e-mail buddy of mine wrote me today and told me that he was HIV+. It was very unexpected and completely deflating. I wrote him back and told him that as time goes on, you don't fixate on the virus all the time. There are days when you just forget about it. But these are lessons that you learn on your own, and in your own time. Looking back on my most recent entries, I realized that I have not been writing much about HIV. I think it gets too exhausting to rehash the topic over and over. You force yourself to forget even though you know the virus will always remind you of its presence: because of the virus I always have to be home by midnight to take my meds; I don't allow myself to get close to anyone in a romantic way because I always end up being rejected; I think about death a lot more than I used to.

I am working on a third screenplay these days. It is a sad story about a father who kills his son. Who feels he has no choice to kill his son. Who has been dreaming of killing his son for the past fifteen years. I can't wait for days of happiness to return.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Obama Is Not Getting It

Well, maybe he is, but isn't letting on. The inconvenient truth here is that the American people do not pick their presidents based on the issues. They pick their leaders based on appearance and personality. Sound like a high school class president election? Perhaps. But that would be looking at things in too "negative" a light. My take on this is that Americans are by and large a very trusting people. The Japanese-American political economist Francis Fukuyama touched on this in his book called Trust in 1995. We elect our leaders and trust them to do the right thing. And why do you trust anyone to begin with? Because you connect with them on a certain, intrinsic level. No one has the time to make two lists of the myriad of issues that plague this country and then compare them side by side on an Excel spreadsheet. We trust that Obama will do the right thing. We trust that McCain will do what's best for the country. And yet, politicians know that they have to pay lip service to the issues because what they are really doing is revealing the politician's deeper instincts and values. I haven't heard much from Obama on the issues these days, and that's where he's going wrong.

Palin may not have experience, but lots of people are trusting that she will not do anything inherently wrong. And Obama's campaign knows this. The government is run by tons of leaders and advisors who will make sure that Palin will not do anything too seriously wrong once she is elected. Her role is to get McCain in the White House, and she is doing that job just perfectly at the moment.

Friday, August 29, 2008

She's no Ferraro

Wow. If McCain goes with Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska, he may have played a wild, trump card that no one could have seen coming. At 44, she's earned a well-deserved reputation as a maverick, she's younger than Obama, she's actually governed something and she's going to attract all those women voters who wanted it to be Hilary. Hell, she's going to attract a lot of men who wanted it to be Hilary. Let's be honest, she is very easy on the eyes. Obama's pick of a Washington insider like Biden was two sides of the same coin--inspired and uninspired. But above all, it freed McCain's hand to go with a running mate who did not need to deliver a huge bunch of electoral votes in the election. Delaware gets 3, as does Alaska. This allows the election to focus on personalities and issues. Now, how hard does Biden the Attack Dog go after Palin without appearing misogynistic? One false move here could send all the Hilary mice scurrying over to McCain and four more years of McSame. What an election this has been.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Here We Go Again...

After two glorious weeks of watching the Olympics, we are now back to the real, ugly world. (Not that there weren't ugly incidents at the Olympics--the Cuban taekwondo jin kicking the ref in the face comes right to mind--but at least there were more good stories than bad.) Bush and Cheney are threatening Russia not to recognize the breakaway provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia when it was just last year when the West decided to recognize Kosovo's independence from Serbia. Bush says, "Georgia's territorial integrity and borders must command the same respect as every other nation's, including Russia's" and conveniently disregards Serbia. I have no love for the Serbian leadership, and neither did the Kosovars. But if we're going to start recognizing that every disgruntled group of people can claim independence, then we're going to have allow for the possibility of Native Americans having their own country within America's borders. We have to allow for Quebec to become their own nation. And the Basques in Spain. And the Taiwanese. There is just no consistency here--the only thing that matters is muscle, and that is exactly what Russia is flexing at the moment. If I were Russian, I would tell America to f*ck off and stop being so hypocritical. Until there is some consistency in America's foreign policy (when is November arriving?), Russia can do whatever it wants.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

9-0

Korea's win over Cuba marks the first time Korean men have ever won a gold medal in a ball sport. And what a win it was, 3-2. The first inning saw the Koreans take two runs to Cuba's one. The seventh inning saw an exchange of runs. And then it was on to the bottom of the ninth where Cuba was able to load the bases with one man out. I know the Korean press is going to be hounding the Puerto Rican plate umpire for favoring the Cubans with some very questionable calls on throws that should have been strikes--even the American broadcasters were claiming that the pitcher Ryu Hyun Jin got squeezed and that the strike zone had disappeared. The catcher got into a heated argument with the plate and got ejected. It really looked like all was lost. No way was Cuba going to leave the bases loaded here. One base hit was all it would take to snatch victory from the Koreans. Of course, one double play was all it would take for the Koreans to clinch gold, and that's what they got. No one thought the Koreans would go 9-0 in this tournament, least of all Japan and Cuba who each got beat twice by Korea. This would prove to be Korea's last gold medal of the games, and am I glad I woke up at 6 in the morning to catch it!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Baseball in Beijing

I am LMAO watching Korea and Cuba play baseball. The Chinese organizers tried to import a lot of the American stuff like music for the 7th inning stretch, but NO ONE is singing along. They brought over the bugle riff where the spectators should yell CHARGE!, but NO ONE does. More problematic is that the camera work isn't quite up to par, the lens not tracking the appropriate player at the relevant time. A replay that would definitely have been shown here in the States is not always worth a second look in China. It's actually kind of hilarious. This has to be the quietest ball game I have ever heard. There aren't many fans in the seats, but come on... No wonder the Olympic powers that be are removing baseball from the roster for the London Olympics. Now I would have paid anything in the world to see a British baseball team. It couldn't have been much worse than the team the Greeks fielded in 2004.

Anyway, Korea is up 6-3 in the 7th and if they win this one, they will surely beat the lowly Netherlands and end up 7-0. Then they will promptly lose the match to go for the gold medal. I've seen it happen too many times with Korean baseball. They make you believe, until the last minute that is. Go Korea! Win a gold this time!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

40, 30, 20, 18, 17...

My dating life seems to be in this weird regression, backtracking, retrograde, Saturn-is-in-Venus-which-is-in-perihelion-window mode. Five months ago I was dating someone who was in his early 40s, which was quickly followed by someone in his late 30s, which was followed by someone in his 20s and then in his younger 20s, and now I am embarrassed to admit that I have recently gone on dates with kids who are 18 and 17. (Not that anything physical was going to happen with the two kiddies, especially the 17 year-old, I still double checked New York's statutory rape law to make sure I was on the safe side, which I thankfully was.) What have I learned from all these mishaps? First, I am still a curious person, curious to meet new people and hear what they have to say. I found I am physically attracted to all shapes and sizes and yes, ages. Tall and lean, short and squat, short and thin, chubby and tubby, scruffy and squeaky. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Would it help to be attracted to just one type or would that limit me more in my search for Mr. Right? And then I realized what all these people had in common. Not one of them knew the difference between a run, a touchdown, an ace, a goal and a birdie. Tiger Woods is not a retirement community in south Florida. Nor is Rafa a gangsta rap star. Will someone who knows please let me know where you are?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Sportsmanship

A handshake here, a hug there. I am seeing some truly touching moments of sportsmanship in these games. As proud as I am of being Korean, I do think that Koreans are not always the most gracious losers. We're wonderful winners, but not always the best at accepting defeat. The bronze medal match in men's badminton doubles was a riveting affair between the 5th ranked Danes and the 13th ranked Koreans. The Danes took the first game easily and looked to be cruising to taking the second game and the medal. Somehow the Koreans turned it around and then stepped on the gas, winning the second and third. I felt for the Danes. It must have been crushing. Yet there they were hugging their counterparts and offering real congratulations. I'm not sure I would have been that magnanimous. But the gesture just filled me with so much respect for the Danish players. More than the hearts of a champion, they showed the hearts of caring human beings.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I Am Loving These Games

I have really been enjoying these Olympics. For the competition and for the range of emotions they have elicited. I just got done watching Korea play Iceland in men's handball, a match Korea did not deserve to win 22-21, but also one that Iceland richly deserved to lose. It just got so ridiculous at the end when Korea's men had a brain fart and the Icelandic men looked like clowns trying to score the equalizer. The Korean coach threw up his hands when the final buzzer blew, but it was the body language of a survivor, not a victor.

The coaches in weightlifting exude all the innocence and joy of children when their lifters make a successful lift. It is so contagious I want to take up weightlifting and have someone be that excited over me.

Watching the sizzling hot Hiroyuki Tomita fall off the rings was truly terrifying as he landed like a rag doll. Suddenly in that moment, winning and losing seemed irrelevant. Kohei Uchimura fell off the pommel horse twice, but how amazing was it that he came back to win the silver medal! (He is a lock for gold in London.)

The judo judges are just cracking me up. They are bad ass! I mean B-A-D ass with their suit jackets and stern looks. You don't mess with them. In comparison, the officials in charge of the archery matches look like nursery school teachers.

And speaking of bad ass, China is making these Olympics look like a Saturday matinee. Their athletes are performing out of their minds and making it look so easy! Makes me damn proud to be a fellow Asian!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Poster Boy

Every Olympics for Korea there's always one athlete who kind of comes out of nowhere to grab a gold medal and this year it's this 5'5" 23 year-old kid Sa Jae Hyouk, winner in the 77kg weight class. I don't recall Korea winning a gold medal in weightlifting while I was there for 10 years, so this is bound to be a big deal. And since single fold eyelids are still quite the rage in Korea, expect this kid to get some major endorsements when he gets back home.

I Love NBCOLYMPICS.COM!

It is 3 am in the morning and I am watching Korea vs. Sweden women's handball match LIVE! Thanks GE for letting me watch this! Korea is up 22-16!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Olympic Music

Here's my new favorite song that's the background music for the GM commercial that's been running during the Olympics. And if my first screenplay ever gets produced, this is going to be the payoff song toward the end of the movie. Her name is Brandi Carlile. It's called The Story. Hope you like it as much as I do.



All of these lines across my face tell you the story of who I am
So many stories of where I've been and how I got to where I am
But these stories don't mean anything when you've got no one to tell them to
It's true...I was made for you.
I climbed across the mountain tops, swam all across the ocean blue
I crossed all the lines and I broke all the rules, but baby I broke them all for you
Because even when I was flat broke, you made me feel like a million bucks
You do. I was made for you.
You see the smile that's on my mouth, it's hiding the words that don't come out
And all of my friends who think that I'm blessed, hey don't know my head is a mess
No, they don't know who I really am and they don't know what
I've been through like you do, and I was made for you.
All of these lines across my face tell you the story of who I am
So many stories of where I've been and how I got to where I am
But these stories don't mean anything when you've got no one to tell them to
It's true...I was made for you.

Six for Six... and Counting

You've got to believe there's a deep-rooted correlation between a nation and the sports that it embraces, but what exactly it all means is sometimes hard to say. Few would argue that football epitomizes the American character, with its emphasis on power, analysis and precision. The same can be said, more or less, for baseball and basketball. When it comes to Korea, increasingly one comes to think of its excellence in golf. The way the sport requires hours and hours and hours of patient practice. Rote, mechanical practice. (Not unlike the way many Korean students attack their studies, memorizing fact after fact after fact.) But before there was golf, there was archery. Since 1984, Korean women have won every available gold medal in Olympic competition, sweeping individual and team play. Yesterday saw a continuation of the dynasty when they comfortably defeated the Chinese, unlike four years ago in Athens when they needed to shoot a perfect 10 on their final arrow to clinch gold. (Unsurprisingly it was the same archer from four years ago who shot the final arrow this time around, Park Sung Hyun.) I can't imagine the kind of practice and dedication, not to mention strength, it takes to keep shooting arrows at a target 70 meters away every day for hours at at time. What does this say about the Korean character? Is there any other sport that so accurately represents what Koreans are about?

Saturday, August 9, 2008

What the World Needs Now

In my prayers tonight, I include the Bachmans. As the entire world now knows, Todd Bachman was murdered in Beijing by a mentally deranged man who subsequently committed suicide. I pray that Mr. Bachman is in heaven now, and that his wife makes it out of surgery all right, and that she and her family will heal quickly.

There is so much negativity all around. Today I went to go see The Castle, an off-Broadway production about four ex-cons who tell their stories. And what heart-wrenching stories they are. About abuse. Neglect. Despair. Pain. Redemption.

Please everyone, let's all be good to each other as much as we can.

Good as Gold, Part II

Hooray for Taehwan Park! Korea's first medal in swimming, and it's gold! Four years ago as a 14 year-old kid in Athens, he false started and was disqualified. How agonizing that must have been--to practice and prepare and travel halfway around the world, and then on international TV, embarrass yourself. Four years later, it's vindication. People were saying that he was going to win gold. And he did. What a great moment in a teenager's life!

On another note, how about those Korean women handballers yesterday! In their first preliminary match against the current world number one Russians, they were down by 9(!) goals and stormed back in a ten-minute period to tie the score and ultimately walk away with a tie. An amazing effort in the sport that brought Korea's first gold medal in a ball sport.

Good as Gold

Congratulations to Minho Choi for getting the gold he wanted so badly at the Athens games four years ago. You've got to love stories like this that vindicate the adage "If at first you don't succeed..." I will keep this guy in mind as I go forward with my writing.

I am sure the broadcasters in Korea were screaming their heads off when Minho won gold in the final in a little over two minutes, defeating the current world number one, Austria's Ludwig Paischer, by ippon, a "throw". (But Ludwig was so gracious, so sportsmanlike, at the end of the match when he had to lift up an overwrought Minho from the floor, hugged him and held up his hand in the air to signify that he had been beaten by the better judoka.) A successful throw signals the immediate end of the match, much like getting pinned in wrestling does. The semifinal was an even shorter affair, where he took down the world number 2, Dutch Ruben Houkes, in four seconds! Blink, and you would have literally missed it! These are the matches I really miss seeing in Korea. At any rate, the broadcasters can now relax and stop ranting, "When will Korea win its first gold medal?" Usually it's the women archers who provide the first gold, but Korea definitely got a nice surprise here. (Korea's women archers, by the way, set a new world record in the ranking round scoring 2004 points thereby securing the top seed in the team tournament and the top 3 seeds in the individual.

I wish I were in Beijing!

Friday, August 8, 2008

I Wish I Were in Beijing

Watching the opening ceremony of the Olympics has done nothing for my state of mind and this third script that I am writing. I love the Olympics. It is all about color and festivity and sport and people coming together. One of the biggest regrets in life is that I will never be an Olympian and get to march into a stadium and be a part of a ceremony that celebrates the ideal of one world. (Hmm... maybe that should be my next goal... figuring out how I can come close to doing something that approximates that.) My scripts to date have all been about disconnection and isolation, and I am sure that as I soon as I finish this third one, I will write something much brighter and happier.

So here are some quick thoughts on the opening: 1) It was a show that will never be duplicated ($300 million went into the production!); 2) George Bush looked bored at one moment, checking his watch; 3) The Chinese crowd cheered loudly for Taiwan and Iraq (how very nice, especially since there were only four athletes in their delegation) and gave a jolt of hurrah to North Korea; 4) The announcers made a point of politicizing the games whenever they could, criticizing China for denying Joey Cheek a visa (Joey Cheek, a former gold medalist who has been vocal about China failing to do enough in Darfur), jabbing at Venezuela, slamming Russia; ripping Zimbabwe; 5) Putin looked at the American athletes with positive disdain, LOL (but they didn't show Bush when the Russians came in, so....)

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

How American Am I?

Growing up in this country in the 70s, I saw few Asian faces in the media that might have informed how I, an Asian-American, might fit into a predominantly white society. The answer my parents provided was simply to study hard and get a good job. But would that make me a proud American? I always had my doubts. Living in Korea in 1996 forever changed the way I felt about my heritage. The Olympics were in Atlanta that year and it was the first time I was going to get a really good view of what Korean athletes could do. In sports like archery. Badminton. Ping pong. Wrestling. Judo. Hardly what one would call the glamor events of the games. Yet I immediately sensed something afoot when the Korean stations broadcast archery live and all my friends decided that they were going to spend the night at my apartment and watch it with me. Yeah, OK. But there I was cheering the archers as they unleashed arrow after arrow at the bullseye. There I was getting excited by a sport I was seeing for the very first time in my life. There I was hollering when Korea won the gold medal. In archery. Then I knew I was a Korean. A little bit of research later I discovered that the bow and arrow were the traditional weapons of the famed warriors of Goguryeo, the ancient Korean kingdom whose boundaries stretched all the way into present day Manchuria and Russia. For the first time in my life, I felt proud of the blood that coursed through my veins.

After 1996, there was 1998 when Seri Pak won the US Women's Open at Blackwolf Run in Wisconsin. That was another stay-up-all-through-the-night ordeal as Korean television broadcast live her 20-hole playoff against Jenny Chuasiriporn. Watching Seri make her final birdie in the early hours of the morning, my friends and I erupted in elation. (That apartment saw a lot of wear and tear.) Fast forward through the Sydney Games to the World Cup in 2002. All I have to say is that I was there when Korea went to the seminfinals. I was there when Korea beat Poland. And then Portugal. And then Italy. And then Spain. It's just impossible to describe each event. The cheering that took place in the streets. The parties that took over the night. I was alive. And I was Korean. Not much more to ask for.

So here we are. 2008. I thought I was going to be watching the games live in Beijing. This was before HIV changed the course of my life. I'll be watching the games here in NYC. Begging for a glimpse of the Korean athletes. I might get to see Park Tae Hwan in the 400 meter freestyle in swimming. And not much else. Will I cheer on the Americans? When they're fighting against the Russians and the Chinese, I will. And I guess that answers my question.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Checking In at the JetBlue Counter

"Good day sir, where are you going?"
"LA."
"Three bags, I see. It's 100 for the first, 200 for the second and 300 for the third."
"Six hundred dollars to check in my bags?"
"Fuel costs, stupid. Get on the scale please."
"Why?"
"Surcharges for fatsos, of course. The days of light, healthy people paying for the evil choices of Heart-Attacks-Waiting-to-Happen are gone."
"I was meaning to start a diet this week."
"Should have started a month ago, Blubber. My, my, 226 pounds. The first 100 are free, courtesy of the Bluester, but it's an extra dollar for every pound up to 200 and 10 dollars for every pound after that."
"Isn't that discriminating against people who weigh over 200 pounds?"
"No one told you to shove that last Ho Ho down your throat for breakfast. That'll be an extra 360."
"So what am I up to?"
"WTF, you're stupid and fat? Jeez. Lemme calculate this quickly here. 960 in surcharges so far."
"Man."
"We're not done yet, sir. You're of Asian descent, yes?"
"What does my ethnicity have to do with anything?"
"It's an extra 5000 when you're Middle Eastern or look or smell anything like a terrorist. That's the 'terror tax' we tack on to those customers. Federal marshals don't fly free, especially the ones who look like tubs of lard. But since you're Asian, it's only 1000 more."
"So I have to pay $1960 on top of the 600 for the original round trip ticket?"
"Will that be cash or credit? There's a $700 surcharge when you pay by credit card. The electronic transactions take up more gas than you'd think."

Thursday, July 31, 2008

I Love Michelle Wie

Being HIV+, you quickly learn how important it is to stay positive--in your outlook, with your health; otherwise, it can all go downhill really quickly. You also learn that there's no room for hate. For frustration, yes; for hate, no. Ever since she played at the Sony at the age of 14, Michelle Wie has attracted her share of haters. Today she teed it up with the big boys again at the Legends Reno-Tahoe Open. For that decision, she got grief from Jay "I-don't even-know-who-that-is" Williamson; Annika "I-don't-understand-why-she-continues-to-do-this" Sorenstam and Paula "that's-not-the-pathway-I've-chosen" Creamer. For the record, Michelle shot a 1-over 73 today which means she'll probably have to shoot 1-under tomorrow to make the cut. (Jay Williamson shot a 74, but Michelle has too much class to rub that fact in his face. Luckily, I don't.) Every person has his or her own path to walk. Their own dream to chase. It's never been a secret that Michelle's has been to play in the Masters. What's wrong with embracing that dream with her? It may not come true. Perhaps Michelle's best bet is to play the LPGA. But there are so many dreams out there that will never come true. I think Michelle is still young enough and talented enough to keep dreaming for a while. You go girl! Make the cut tomorrow! Even if you don't, this blogger loves you greatly for having the guts to put it all out there. Good luck Michelle!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Michael Jordan Doesn't Like Korean BBQ!!

What's up with that? Who doesn't like Korean BBQ? Well, at least, that's what MJ says in his new Hanes commercial with Charlie Sheen, who it would seem DOES like Korean BBQ. What a long way Koreans have come since everyone thought that I was either Chinese or Japanese. First there was the Hyundai commercial in 1988, and then people began to know what tae kwon do and kimchi were, but it really does seem like the BBQ is what many Americans love about Korean culture. (There is this really bizarre Pine Sol commercial with a black woman and a man speaking Korean in a temple, but I doubt many can recall this still running TV spot.) And of course, now there are so many Korean-Americans making their mark, among them my new favorite athlete Anthony Kim. With two wins under his belt, a third possible tomorrow if he goes low in the final round of the Canadian Open, this kid is the new Tiger.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Senselessness and Sensibility

I recently finished my second screenplay and have been thinking about several ideas for my third. The problem is that the stuff in the headlines is so outrageous that anything I think of seems to pale in comparison. Kids in Congo dying so that kids in America can play Play Station. That one just made me want to pull my hair out. This cannot be a sane world that we are living in. One minute we're supposed to laugh at Miley Cyrus' latest fashion faux pas and the next we're supposed to worry about suicide bombers in Iraq. It's all getting to be a little too ridiculous. How are we supposed to care about anything? Which brings us to yesterday when I got totally dumped by someone I had developed real feelings for, but the feelings hadn't been mutual. Part of me feels I was lied to, another part of me feels I was just an expendable person whose feelings didn't matter. Things really don't make sense. How long do we keep pretending that they do?

Saturday, July 5, 2008

If You Were Dying, Would You Want to Know?

Today I went to the hospital to say good bye to my friend Steve. Steve is going back to his home country tomorrow. Steve is 30, has a brain tumor, has less than a year to live and doesn't know. But everyone else does. Steve's uncle told me last week that the doctors have done all they could for him. But Steve seemed really cheery today, talking about the future as if it were going to happen. He mentioned today that he wanted to be a nurse, that being in a hospital for a month had given him a real respect for health care professionals and the work they do. It was lunch time when I got there and he complained about the food; I commiserated. There was nothing on TV. I let him do most of the talking. He said that he had been in such pain the month before he was hospitalized. Does it make sense for everyone to know that Steve is dying, but Steve does not? Apparently he only has a few more months of lucidity before the tumor will wipe him out. Do we let him enjoy these final months? Or do we tell him so that he can prepare himself?

I remember how terrible I felt when I had been arrested and deported from Korea, all within two days. No chance to say goodbye to friends, relatives, colleagues. No chance to retrieve the things I had worked so hard for. Maybe this is why I wanted to say goodbye today instead of 'see you soon'. But again, a simple lie took the place of the demanding truth. At the end of life, do we end up buried under a peaceful mountain of little lies?

Monday, June 23, 2008

If Only Doug Had Waited

Back in college I knew a guy named Doug. He was probably the best looking guy I had ever seen in my life. I know that with the passage of time, we tend to enhance the memories of people who are gone, but I still remember very clearly the huge crush that I had on him. Doug didn't go to my school, but he lived nearby and was friends with someone from my dorm. At this time, I knew I was gay, but had absolutely no gaydar and didn't know that Doug was gay. It wouldn't be until years later that I found out about Doug's sexuality. It was also years later that I would find out that Doug was HIV+ when I knew him. This was in the late 80s and early 90s before there was cocktail therapy. Back then, HIV really was a death sentence. If only Doug had waited until 1996. That's when the cocktail therapies started. And that's when Doug could have dared to hope again. But I guess the loneliness and isolation were too much for him. So he committed suicide in a hotel room. I am going through some hard times lately. The problem is that I don't think I would know how to commit suicide. The problem is that I still have some hope. Sometimes I wonder how I could just get rid of that last bit of hope and go away peacefully and be with Doug. I miss you so much.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

A Handful of Water

So I did something kind of crazy on my birthday Sunday. I answered an ad on craigslist and went hiking with a guy I had never met before. He was a nice kid; intelligent, well-spoken; but not much of that elusive chemistry. So what was it that possessed both of us to meet without so much as an exchange of pictures? Plain and simple: loneliness. There's just a lot of loneliness in this city. It's what makes us go full speed ahead from one thing to another so we can just forget about the loneliness, even if just for a moment. I think a lot of us choose our loneliness. The alternative, of course, is choosing to be with someone you don't really feel much anything for. Which is worse? Is it better to die alone, proud not to have settled for someone we didn't much care for? Or better to die knowing you never met the person you really wanted to meet in this lifetime? We meet so many people in this city. Like a handful of water that slips through the fingers.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Happy Happy Birthday!!

OK, my birthday presents have been coming a few days early this year. Yesterday I got a birthday call from none other than Gail Simmons of Food and Wine magazine! How crazy was that. My friend who works with her asked her to call me up, which she graciously did. She was so bright and personable on the phone--I might have embarrassed myself a little, but who cares? It was so awesome that my friend thought of me that way. Today I got a letter from Edward T. Hall, the world-renowned cultural anthropologist, who responded to a letter that I wrote him last month, thanking him for the profound influence his writings have had in my life. He is 94, still going strong, but I am just over the world that I got this chance to communicate with him. For as much I cherish my solitude, I seem to be discovering all over again that life can be pretty amazing when you reach out to others.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Koop - Come to Me

I featured Koop, the fantastic Swedish jazz duo, once before. With warmer weather now upon us, I thought it was time to showcase them again. Their music, with Yukimi Nagano on vocals, always stirs up feelings of intimate happiness. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Two Holocaust Films in One Weekend

One of the things I like about living in NYC is that you get to see movies that won't play in smaller markets. This weekend I felt like I was living at the Quad on W. 13th, watching Constantine's Sword and The Memory Thief. The first, a documentary made by an ex-Catholic priest, wasn't about the Holocaust per se, but about the history of Christianity's persecution of the Jewish people. The second was a compellingly original movie about a young man's transformation from lonely soul into insane suicide victim, triggered by the pain of the Holocaust. Remembering the past. Getting lost in the past. Neither necessarily leads you to understanding the past.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Gore and Bloomberg for 2008

Nothing new here. Politics is a power grab. That's all this election season has taught us. Those shut out during the Clinton years can't wait to step on to Barack's shoulders (ramming Barack into the ground, of course.) The Clintonistas are desperate to hold on for eight more years, if their health insurance permits, that is. I hope Al Gore rips August to pieces and Bloomberg comes in sweeping them all into his wallet.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Baghdad--A Great Place to Live

The largest American diplomatic mission in the world will be located in Iraq. At a cost of $700 million. Without enough protective housing for all its employees. Why exactly did we go to war for five years? So we could build an inadequate structure that wouldn't pass a New York City building inspection?

Monday, April 21, 2008

It's Getting Embarrassing

I am so glad not to be traveling abroad much these days and having to reveal that I am an American. So what am I going to rant about today? The powers that be in Washington are now intervening to prevent a Chinese ship loaded with weapons from reaching its target of Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is, of course, one of those black countries somewhere in another universe that barely registers a blip in the American solar system. It's a country rife with political and economic problems. Its current ruler Robert Mugabe just lost big time in a presidential election but is still clinging to power and will need those Chinese weapons to kill off his rivals. Enter stage left the United States on its very, very, very high pedestal--the country that has no problems exporting weapons to Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, Israel, South Korea and whatever Latin American country the CIA happens to be destabilizing this month. Don't expect the Chinese to back down here. Mugabe is a dictator, but someone the Chinese can do business with. America has no moral authority to intervene in this situation. Will it ever again? I'm thinking not in my lifetime.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Getting Caught Up in the Whirlwind

It is official: I am a piece of paper caught up in the whirlwind that is New York City. The question now is: how do I extract myself? Here are some of the excuses I have for not blogging for so long:

1. I went to see Chef Tom Colicchio, Gail Simmons and Ted Allen of Top Chef fame at their book signing in Union Square. Ted Allen was quite the comedian, something I didn't get on TV.

2. I finished my screenplay! That was a herculean effort that required the sacrifice of several small saplings, but I can honestly say it was the most challenging and fun intellectual exercise I have ever put myself through.

3. I have actually made a few new friends. We have been busy eating and watching movies. I think I have crushes on both of them... ugh....

4. I have been watching lots of golf on TV. The Masters was a few weeks ago, and I was so happy to see Trevor Immelman win! This is a guy who had a tumor taken out of his body last year. Nothing got in his way the week he won, not even Tiger.

5. I have been spending more time with my brother and his wife. We've been playing Taboo and Life and having a blast. I really do love board games!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Emperor for a Year

--I don't think we're paying our governor enough if he can only afford the cheapy, one-diamond prostitutes!
--For a $1000 an hour, Eliot was demanding unprotected sex? I would have been demanding a lot more than that!!
--It kind of makes you wonder what the 7-diamond/$5500 an hour hooker buys you!!!

These were just a few of the things I was hearing today about ex-Governor Spitzer. I'm ashamed to admit I laughed at some of it. Who was it that said, If you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say anything? I just don't think that's possible anymore in this Information Age where we're all supposed to know what's going on, and have to offer an opinion at the risk of appearing ignorant and obsolete. And since most of us don't know about what's going on, scorn and ridicule have become safe mode, default reactions. They say the automobile forever changed the structure of society by introducing mobility and breaking up family and community structures. What was it that spurred humanity to create the four-wheel extension of itself? The need to feel less suffocated? The desire to see what was on the other side of those mountains? What about the prostitutes in this context? Are they extensions of power run amok? An aura of invincibility? Or a more basic, more primal instinct to connect? What about the Internet? What has this technological extension done to us? Has it made us more connected to our fellow human beings? Or has it disconnected society to the point where it's broken beyond cohesion and repair? I suspect many of my fellow New Yorkers never had an interest in New York State politics until this story broke out. And then faster than a high-speed Internet connection, we all quickly became experts. Experts on something that will surely--by the end of this week at the latest-- amount to nothing.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Off With Their Heads!!!

Greedy. Shortsighted. Vain. Just a few words to describe Michigan and Florida, who in their salty lust to hog the spotlight from Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan have ended up looking like imbecils. Each state wanted to be more important in the nominating process by pushing up their elections to January against Democratic National Committee rules. Each state had its results disqualified. Each state now faces the process of do-over elections at costs of $5 million and upwards. It's only a matter of time before some public interest group sues the governors of each state for said costs, who by the way have shown absolutely no remorse for the sorry state of affairs. This is another classic case of putting individual interests before those of the group. Failure to see the larger picture. Failure to fulfill the potential to come together as one national party. If the Democrats lose in November, the heads of party leaders will be rolling down the steps of the Capitol. And DNC chairman Howard Dean knows it. Which is why he's clamoring right now for do-overs to save his sorry, grossly negligent ass. A mistake one can abide. Sheer ineptitude, no. Allowing Florida and Michigan to move up their elections, thereby displacing millions of voters into a political black hole, recalls Michael Brown and FEMA leaving New Orleans to drown and die in Hurricane Katrina. Howard Dean may yet turn out to be the face that symbolizes this year's Hurricane Election. But if I were Charlie Crist and Jennifer Granholm, the MisGovernors of Florida and Michigan, I wouldn't be breathing easy just yet. Look away now while you can. It may be the last look you get in politics.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Who Can Put the Pieces Together?

The world is shredded. Here in America we glorify fragmentation, segmentation, compartmentalization. Everything is done in blocks of time that have nothing to do with the natural rhythms of human needs and desires. I have given up on trying to find a group of friends with whom I can do everything. I have resolved myself to having tennis "friends" and volleyball "friends" and movie "friends" and eating out "friends" and museum "friends" and bookstore "friends". It was a marvel to see the look of disorientation on the face of one of my tennis "friends" when I suggested that we see a movie. No one really cares anymore about what is going on with the bigger picture in the company as long as their little cubicle is working as it should be. I guess this explains how the privileged in America can waste inordinate amounts of energy debating whether or not David Hernandez should be sent home from American Idol for his stripper past and at the same time be absolutely clueless that inordinate swathes of the globe are mired in social, political and economic turmoil. The Democratic National Party was vehement that no funds would go to support do-over elections in Florida and Michigan. "We've got to use our resources to win the national election." This is broken thinking beyond repair. Do they not realize that the Democrats won't win the White House without the support of Democratic voters in Florida and Michigan? What the world needs now are individuals who can see the big picture and understand how all the details dovetail to create that picture. Someone whose vision is broad enough to encompass everything and everyone. Where are the visionaries? When do we stop denying that part of ourselves that longs to come together as one? Or are we too mad to find the way back out of oblivion?

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Lights Dim for Edison

I admit Edison Chen is the last person I ever thought I would write about on this blog, but I also know that writing will lead you into some very different universes. If I had to describe this one, I'd say it smelled of oppressively scented flowers, where everything is made of chrome and silver and the strains of baroque music play in the background. A world where things melt in the face of bad thoughts, and you can't be sure if anything will be the same from moment to moment. Edison was never much of a favorite while I was living in Korea, but as a fellow hyphenated Asian (he's Chinese-Canadian)I was proud to see one of my own also doing well in the land of his ancestry. To be sure, he's accomplished quite a lot, as an actor, singer, producer and fashion designer. I had to check wikipedia to make sure he's still only 27. After this photo scandal, he's going to be a lot older. Part of me thinks that there are so many other people I should be empathizing with than a rich entertainer. Another part recognizes that Edison, like many others, got caught up in the lifestyle. The fun. The drugs. The sex. The hype. But no one deserves to have his private life smeared all over the Internet. I read Edison has succumbed to depression. Unable to eat. To show himself in public. The daylights knocked out. I remember those sensations all too well when I was first dealing with my HIV. I feel terrible all over again, but this time for Edison and for all the women whose lives were exposed in those photos. I never thought I would, or could, feel sympathy for Edison Chen. But I'm glad that I do. It means I'm keeping my virus at bay, that there's still something human left inside.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

There's Too Much Love

Here's one of my favorite songs from the Scottish group Belle & Sebastian.

I could hang about and burn my fingers
I've been hanging out here waiting for something to start
You think I'm faultless to a 'T'
My manner set impeccably
But underneath I am the same as you
I could dance all night like I'm a soul boy
But you know I'd rather drag myself across the dance floor
I feel like dancing on my own
Where no one knows me, and where I
Can cause offense just by the way I look



And when I come to blows, when I am numbering my foes
Just hope that you are on my side, my dear
But it's best to finish as it started
With my face head down just staring at the brown formica
It's safer not to look around
I can't hide my feelings from you now
There's too much love to go around these days
You say I've got another face
That's not a fault of mine these days
I'm brutal, honest and afraid of you
It's safer not to look around
There's no hidin' my feelings from you now
There's too much love to go around these days

Saturday, February 16, 2008

See You in the Hall of Fame

I have always loved Monica Seles, so it was particularly sad to read on Valentine's Day that she decided to hang up her rackets. Monica was the original power player in the early 90s, using two hands to come over the ball on both the backhand and forehand sides. Along with those fierce strokes were the even fiercer grunts that exploded each time the ball got whacked. After HIV turned my life inside out and upside down, I began to comprehend how Monica must have felt after she was stabbed on a tennis court by a deranged man in Germany in April 1993. In one instant, she went from being the top player in the world to a physically and emotionally devastated human being. For 27 months, she stayed out of the game. And though she had family, friends and fans supporting her, it was surely a time of withdrawal into an impenetrable vault. Monica eventually found the courage to come back to tennis, and incredibly won the Australian Open in 1996. But that was to be the last of her 9 Grand Slams. She was never quite able to recover her early top form, and the sporting world was cheated out of witnessing what could have been the greatest female tennis player in history. Without question Monica will find her way into the Hall of Fame. But for many years, I think she's already been in a place where no one could touch her.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

I Heart Jake Shimabukuro

Today I got my tickets to go see Jake Shimabukuro, the insanely, wildly talented ukulele player from Hawaii. He is finally coming here to New York City to do a show at the Highline Ballroom in Chelsea on February 18. For those of you who have no idea who Jake is, I will just give you the link to one of his videos on YouTube. Nothing I say can do justice to the sounds that he gets out of those four strings. My friend in Hawaii says that Jake is rarely seen on the islands because he's touring the world so much, and he has in fact played with Jimmy Buffett of Margaritaville fame on a number of occasions. Check Jake out! I hope you like as much as I do!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

That's the Look I Was Going For...

I wasn't there, but Eileen Ford was and that's all that matters in the Ford Supermodel of the World contest, the granddaddy of all modeling contests. Though it was held in Manhattan, I only heard about it through friends in Asia who were all congratulating me that this year's winner of the $250,000 first prize was a 20 year-old Korean girl, Seung-hyun Kang. I immediately looked her up on the net, and was pleasantly surprised. Here was a Korean girl who hadn't done a thing to change her natural features--small eyes, low set nose, tiny mouth--and yet, the complete package was killer. She even goes by her Korean nickname, Hyoni. It didn't hurt that she's also 5'10 and the owner of a terribly fierce walk that leads with the shoulders. (Check her out at 1:07 and 2:44.) My entire life I've been ridiculed by both Asians and Westerners for my small eyes. I just feel so vindicated by Hyoni's win, the first Asian to emerge victorious in the contest's 28-year history. So, you go girl, and own the runway and get your picture taken for Vogue. My small eyes today are shining large and bright.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Over the Hills and Far Away

Driving around the city a few nights ago, I realized something I missed about my old country life in Korea. There was a time when I lived in a small farming village. Behind my apartment was a mountain I would traverse to get to my place of work. At dusk, the sun would gently sink into the rice paddies, nourishing the earth with its milky light. And then it would grow dark. Really dark. The gentle woods of the mountain took on the gnarled hedges of an ancient labyrinth. At first it felt like Mr. Hyde had cast a spell--I wonder why I just didn't take the bus. But in time I grew to trust the moonlight, and when the clouds came out, I put my faith in the mountain itself. I knew it would never betray my footsteps. Here in New York, I'm sure I've never felt quite as secure and sure-footed on the city's well-lit streets and concrete pavements, where all the cops stand guard to protect against the forces of darkness. Only in the country does the darkness empower.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Kenya, My Kenya

The situation in Kenya has lost all sense and civilization. I am heartbroken to read today that the ethnic warfare has taken on a life of its own, pitting the Kikuyu, the tribe of business and power, against everyone else. It seems that no lesson was learned from the genocide in Rwanda in 1994 when up to a million Tutsis lost their lives at the hands of the Hutus. Can you imagine 750,000 Latino-Americans being slaughtered on the streets of Los Angeles and then swept into the La Brea tar pits? What about 1,000,000 African-Americans mass-murdered in New York City, dumped into sanitation trucks and buried in the Staten Island waste fill? Kenya was supposed to be a bastion of peace and stability, where the numerous tribes forged together as the economic engine that powered East Africa. And yet today I read it was all just a myth. That ethnic tensions had been simmering all along. That the tranquility I saw eleven years ago in Nairobi was just a facade. Indeed, the pictures of Kibera, the slum where I taught math, show that nothing has improved for the poor. Discontent is rearing a head with blood in its eyes. Where once there were arms that stood to welcome me, now there are only hands wielding machetes. How could it all have been such an illusion? No one who looks at me--a picture of health and strength--would ever think that I harbor a deadly virus within my bloodstream, one that's been forced into remission for the moment but waits silently within my brain and organs to strike. I look into the mirror today and see the failure of Kenya and humanity.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Moves Like a Butterfly

There is nothing like a good tennis tournament to put a guy MIA. This year's Australian Open --the self-dubbed "Happy Open"--did not disappoint one bit. Staying up to watch the matches live at 3:30 am doesn't get any easier as you get older, but they were worth it. And besides, I have always felt a strange kind of power in the wee hours of the morning when I think the rest of the world is asleep. For me, the player of the tourney was Russia's Maria Sharapova who won this year's crown for her third Grand Slam title over Ana Ivanovic of Serbia. For those of you who are not tennis fans, it was a very different story last year when Maria got her butt soundly whipped by Serena Williams in the finals, 6-1, 6-2. Some players would have had a hard time recovering from a drubbing like that, but Maria decided to use the loss as a springboard. To fly higher. She claimed to have trained very hard in the off season and it showed. Her movement, usually restricted to the baseline, saw her stepping out of her comfort zone as she came to net far more often to put away points. That meant coming up with shots you don't associate with her, like a slice backhand on the approach to net. This year it wasn't just all about power, it was about a plan. If in 2007 she was a caterpillar inching from side to side in the back court, this year she was a butterfly. A lot of people can't get past the blond hair and green eyes, which is a shame because you see something far more attractive when you do--passion for the game. And that's what puts her far ahead of the game. Well done, Maria. Good luck at the French!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Ah, Little Britainers!

It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I've found so much to laugh and smile about in the BBC comedy series Little Britain. Starring the insanely talented duo of Matt Lucas and David Walliams (no, not Williams, Walliams), the show first aired in the UK in 2003, and I would never have heard of it but for my Polish friend Adam who once lived in London. It was at his place that I saw the clip that hooked me into watching all 3 seasons on YouTube. The two actors play a breathtaking range of characters including delusional transvestites, paranoid homosexuals, hypocritical overweights, comatose salespeople, delinquent mothers, ignorant academics, tawdry aristocrats and every garden variety of pervert you can imagine. It's a crass humor that nonetheless reeks of intelligence, the kind that would never pass American censors and go right over the head of American viewers. So I was really surprised to read that this year will see the start of production of Little Britain USA. I can't imagine the show being as devilish as the British version, but we'll just have to wait and see. And it will be an eyeful. And a mouthful. Like I said, it won't be everyone's cup of tea. Especially when the show demands that you do everything with it except, of course, drink it.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

A Kaleidoscopic Week

Aunty passed away last week. She was 73, and had lived most of her thirty years in America right here in NYC. Toward the end she went to live with a cousin in Chicago, which is where the family laid her to rest. There were all sorts of reasons to feel sad: she was one of those Asian parents who sacrifices everything for the happiness of her children without thinking of her own; she never got to see a reunited Korea and return to the small village in North Korea where she had been born; not to mention the cancer had given her so much pain. For those of us she left behind, there was the melancholy realization that the events of life will tumble on. Like the pieces inside a kaleidoscope. But not as colorful. Nor as shiny. And much more broken. Much harder to distinguish reality from reflection. The tumbling of consciousness never stops until it's time to return to the earth. And yet Aunty's death did provide a momentary glimpse of real insight. Perhaps it was a picture of heaven. When Grandfather passed on, I saw a noble soldier who had lost his life on the field; with Grandmother, I just cried for hours, she who had carried me on her back when I was a child. But with Aunty, I felt hope. That there's got to be a perfect life after this broken world. Aunty had never seen America before boarding the plane in Korea in 1977. But still she got on it, fully believing it would carry her to a better place. I hope she was dreaming of flying before she took her last breath.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

No Regret

Last night I finally got around to watching No Regret, the 2006 Korean movie about the tortured relationship between an 18 year-old orphan who works in a male brothel and a twenty-something son of a rich businessman. Straight folks were up in arms about its graphic scenes and taboo themes; the gay ones, about how cute the two main characters were. A lot of what I saw, incredulously, was a reenactment of my own sordid past. How I used to frequent the brothels to ease my loneliness. How I became attached to one of the guys who claimed to have no family. How I let him move in with me for a while. In hindsight, I wish I could have done more to hold on to him. Not because he looked well in the Jilsander clothes he favored, or that he was tall and handsome with a strong physique. But because he genuinely seemed to be alone in his life. As I was, but couldn't bring myself to admit. Which is why our relationship never had any chance of succeeding. I told him he had to leave my apartment. He ended up taking refuge in a Buddhist monastery. Some months later, I got a call from him. He said he wanted to see me again, to see how I was doing. But he was the one dressed in a monk's garb with his head shaved. And I was the one feeling that the stranger taking tea with me was my own confused shadow. If only I had known then what I realize now. Love isn't always about finding someone who makes you happy. Sometimes it's about being with someone who simply understands your sadness.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Galactic News for January 3, 2008

Major activity was reported from all quadrants of the Earth today. In the Americas Galaxy, the Northern Alliance began its bizarre, quadrennial ritual of burning hundreds of millions of dollars to select its Supreme Leader. Although too early to predict a winner, the one called Barack Obama has emerged as the early head of the Democratic Faction while the Republican Assembly has voiced approval for the one known as Mike Huckabee. It is Obama, however, who is of special interest this year for a father who terraported from the Kenya Cluster in the Africa Galaxy. Speaking of which, telecameras pointed at the Kenya Cluster revealed a fifth consecutive day of rioting, looting, raping and killing in this normally stable zone, triggered by the announcement that the incumbent leader Mwai Kibaki had rigged the election there to retain his stranglehold on power. This terranaut was particularly shaken by the events as he had terraported to the Kenya Cluster eleven years ago to see its famed giraffes and elephants roaming the mighty grasslands--he could never have imagined this kind of violence between the Luo and Kikuyu who had made his journey such a memorable one. In the Hawaii Belt, a display of calming light colored the skies as its inhabitants kicked off a season of golf in Kapalua. More beautiful lights will flood the southern firmaments when the Australia Galaxy begins its summer festival of tennis in a few weeks.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Running With Kites on New Year's Eve

I never thought I'd follow a post that touched on Pakistan with one on Afghanistan, but here it is. Since my deportation back to New York four years ago on New Year's Day, I've spent every New Year's Eve alone in contemplation. But not last night. Last night I had the excellent company of Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner, 371 pages that stayed with me for about nine hours, and then left calmly and quietly at 5:30 this morning. No raucous. No police. No hangover. Just a lingering, if not slightly painful, memory of Hassan and Amir, two Afghani boys whose friendship shattered at the age of 12; whose lives were then spent trying to put the pieces back together again. It was one of those stories I felt had been written just for me, that the author was trying to tell me: there really is a way to be good again. Since contracting HIV, I've counted too many days when I thought my life would never amount to what it once had been. And yet, somehow I also realized that I had to find a way to make my life useful again. To effect reconciliation within my family. To repay a debt to an old family benefactor. To bring hope and optimism to students who might feel otherwise. But I am still not a selfless person, not in the way that Hassan was. Far from it. There is still a great deal of ugliness and pettiness in my life. Insecurity. Longing. More than anything, I understood last night that I want to have someone in my life to whom I can say "for you, a thousand times over" and dare I hope for this new year, someone who would say the same in return.