Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Return of That's What She Said!

We've released the first episode of That's What She Said Season 2!

Over the three years since we finished Season 1, there have been so many life changes. People got degrees. Changed jobs. Moved. Nested. We've each taken turns leaving the city/state/country for brief and long excursions. We began having near-weekly Google Hangouts to coordinate amidst our busy schedules and cross-state/county locations. 
We've each had to go on various journeys in the last few years, and we are still very much figuring out how make the production process smoother, more streamlined, how to bring on additional support and involve those who are interested. It's tough coordinating an independent venture like this, but we're working to get better at it together. 

Being far away means I have to be careful about getting complacent as a producer. One goal for 2014: Be a badass co-producer/friend.
I see piles of dirty dishes and I get calm. Because I was the dishwasher at my college. I did it with my best friend—two years washing dishes together three nights a week. We talked the whole time. We made a system where we’d let everything pile up and then blast through it in a half hour. Which means we got paid to eat dinner and talk. I have never loved a job like I loved that one. 
The best memories I have in college are of the warm soapy water and great conversations in the small quiet room at the end of the conveyor belt. I didn’t learn much in college. I never took a writing class. I never figured out why people date except to get married. But I learned about work. Any job is a great job if you do it with a friend. 
I’ve had amazing jobs at high levels where I felt alone and it was not nearly as nice a memory as I have of washing dishes. I am at a stage of my life where I have to make decisions about what is most important about work for me. And it’s having friends. The experience of working with friends is so powerful that it can even calm me down in a roomful of purging ballerinas. 
- Penelope Trunk 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Considering the "Holiday Season" // Beginning

The increasingly inescapable connection between Thanksgiving and the beginning of the pathological consumption cycle known as “Christmas shopping” makes me surly.
- Robert Jensen, I'm The Guy Who People Think Hates Thanksgiving 
Last year I was glad to be hopping on a plane on Thanksgiving Day, primarily because I was looking forward to visiting Cambodia again, and secondarily because I was glad to be away from the holiday cheer/shopping sprees/festivities I've felt increasingly disconnected from. I love seeing family and friends, I love enjoying copious amounts of food and drink with them, and I confess that a winter is not complete without watching It's A Wonderful Life at least once, but I have always been uncomfortable with the "holiday season" in a number of ways, for a number of reasons.

From a very young age, I worried about whether my immigrant family did American things "the right way," making all holidays a source of anxiety. Whether it was buying cards and candy for friends on Valentine's Day, making gift packages for Christmas, or the way we gathered to eat turkey, potatoes, and stuffing on Thanksgiving, I was critical of the ways that my family did things differently than the images on television. There were elements of race, class, and religion in all of this. I felt my family caught between trying to maintain Khmer culture and traditions, while also trying to keep me from feeling left out as a kid born in America.
Thinking critically about Thanksgiving is not an attack on the family. I believe our families (biological and chosen) are stronger when we learn together and when we work together to create a world we want to live in.- Beja, The Last Thursday in November
Now that I am older and have a more critical view of these holidays because of their ties to capitalism, labor abuses, and glossing over history, how do I continue to engage with my loved ones? Though I may not want to support and reinforce certain holidays, I also want to take opportunities to spend time with people who otherwise have to spend much of their time working.

It's going to take a while to organize these thoughts in some coherent fashion. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

First Trad Gear Purchase

After my second year attending the JTreeTweetUp in Joshua Tree National Park and third time leading a climb on someone else's gear, I finally decided to purchase my first piece of protection: a Metolius Master Cam #3:
So begins my rack. It would have made more sense to begin with a set of nuts, but I'd like to think having one thin-hands (fingers for most) size cam might make me a more appealing climbing partner. I haven't made it out to the various parks in the Berkeley hills much since joining the belay staff at Ironworks, but as my rack slowly grows, I'll make more of an effort to get out there and practice my placements. 
I've watched plenty of climbing porn but I haven't ventured much into informational videos; I thought the one above was good. No replacement for getting out with an experienced partner, but how else will I distract myself from the pile of job applications I should be submitting.

I found the cost of outdoor pursuits prohibitive until I became passionate about climbing-- while I certainly don't have the means nor inclination to purchase a lot of expensive gear for climbing or camping, I've begun making room in my financial life for things like building a trad rack and getting a decent pack with a good hipbelt.

It's hard making room for non-basic survival expenses (rent, paying off debt, etc.), but I'm trying to maintain an attitude of abundance, knowing that I'm equipped with the skills necessary to manage the balance.

But first, before the gear: must find a regular trad climbing partner based in the Bay Area, preferably East Bay.

Friday, November 1, 2013

How to Persimmon in the Style of My Family

(For Sean, whose grandfather gave him a bag of persimmons, prompting the question, "anyone know how to persimmon?")

One of the highlights of autumn is the ripening of the persimmons in my parents' backyard. Not sure there'll be any left by the time my mom visits in a few weeks, but it turns out that persimmons are readily available in the markets here, too, and I am not the only one who likes them in this house. Hurrah. 

I didn't encounter people eating persimmons like an apple, skin and all, until I reached adulthood, and I just can't embrace it. The tannins from the skin are just too much.

The following photos illustrate how I grew up eating (Fuyu) persimmons:

1. Fuyu persimmon
2. Kiwi-brand pointy knife.
Using the point of the knife, cut out the stem bit.

Like so. 

Then, peel away the thin skin.

I peel it in my hand, but I only have two hands with which to peel and take photos.

I like trying to get it all off in one long strip.


Naked persimmon. Empty persimmon skin.

If you want to get fancy like the Khmer grannies I grew up with, use the point of the knife to cut a zig-zag around the equator. 

After getting all the way around, wiggle the knife in between the cuts to loosen them.

These are not as symmetrical as the ones my aunties would make.

I like to slice them into discs. This is more difficult when they have seeds.
Just found out my parents are sending me a package of persimmon, pomegranate, and cherimoya from their backyard using a Vietnamese bus service. Yesssssss.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Speaking of Web Series... That's What She Said Season 2 Trailer!

Since before I left for Cambodia, we've been at work on Season 2 of TWSS. After that gap, things are starting to happen fast.

New cards.

New trailer. 

And a new website in the works. 

We're aiming for a winter release. You can find us on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. Oh me oh my.

I haven't been there for a lot of production this time around and so I feel like a fangirl myself, super excited to see the new episodes. Working with friends is such a powerful experience. It is one of the best things in my life. They are some of the best people in my life.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Web Series Weekend

I have a guilty secret. I'm not an avid web series watcher. In fact, in the last 4 years since we formed Pearl Girls Productions and made Season 1 of That's What She Said, I can't recall actually watching any web series, except for the occasional episode of Awkward Black Girl.

Now that we're in the throes of producing season 2 of TWSS,  and since it turns out that there are so many web series to choose from featuring stories of queer people of color, I decided it was high time to finally sat down and watched some. We had a web series watching party last Saturday. Funny how watching media can be such a fun social affair. I should probably watch some of the episodes over again because I missed some dialogue due to our commentary and laughter.

These web series all excite me because they feature a variety of people of color, a variety of gender expressions, and high production value.

LESlieVILLE Web Series

Ah, a web series that, like Orange Is The New Black, you can binge on because they've already released their entire first season. And yes, yes we did watch all of the episodes in one sitting. This Toronto-based web series has delicious tension, fun writing, and a love triangle (which might be more of a square). Keep an eye out for their future crowdfunding campaign for a second season!

This Is Kelsey

Really enjoying this NYC-based show about hilariously awkward, newly on-the-prowl Kelsey as her friends help her negotiate dating. It's currently on episode two and I look forward to seeing where this goes. I really like their smart production- the series takes place primarily in about four locations. From my experience, affordable (or free, as in the case of TWSS) locations are tricky to come by. Also, the very handsome actor who plays Tyrone was almost on the cast of TWSS season one.

Dyke Central

Oakland-based Dyke Central released one delicious pilot episode in 2012 and is gearing up to start production on three more episodes. It's so great to see a longer format (20 minute) independent queer web series with such a broad representation of people of color and gender expression.  Support their Indie Go Go campaign (ends October 4) and/or sign up to be an extra.

And now, I twiddle my thumbs, anxiously awaiting the release of future episodes.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Support Generosity // #keepTNfree

Tuesday Night Project's fundraising campaign, KeepTNFree, has been extended for another two weeks: 
Keep TN Free has been extended with a special challenge to folkds 35-and-under: To encourage you to donate (and get into the mindset of giving), any contribution you make will be effectively tripled by an elder community member! Your $15 can become $45! Just leave your age in the notes when you donate online! 
Last year, I wrote the following testimonial:
My involvement with TN as a performer, volunteer, co-stage manager, and co-producer 2008-2012 made an indelible mark on me. I would not have spent five years living, learning, loving, and growing in Los Angeles if I had never met the ever-expanding Tuesday Night Project family.

1st & 3rd Tuesday Night Cafe may seem to run like a well-oiled machine, but behind the scenes, the process is deeply human– there is a strong commitment to openness, trust, transparency, integrity, and self-care. While I worked with TNP, the organizations that populate the Asian American community in LA (and beyond) became more than institutions: they became faces, stories, friends. Tuesday Night Cafe is part of a collection of stories that begin long before the first show in 1999 and stretches out far beyond Aratani Courtyard. I feel blessed to have been a part of that story, and I hope that many more will get the same opportunity for years to come, whether as an audience member, volunteer, performer, or staff member.
If you love Los Angeles, if you love outdoor spaces, if you love community-building, if you love music, if you love poetry, if you love theatre, if you love spam musubi and Sapporo on a warm summer night, please donate.
Additionally, here are a few things I learned as a co-producer and stage manager with TNP 2009-2011:

1. How to properly tape cables. Always across, never parallel. 
2. The joy of Fugetsu-Do strawberry mochi with crunchy peanut butter filling. Until these, I was a creamy peanut butter fan. I've seen the light. Oh, how I yearn for these soft little pillows. 

3. There were spaces which I got to watch in their beginnings, in their growth, and in their blossoming: Break the Silence Open Mic in Long Beach. OUTspoken SessionsCommon Ground OC

4. Places that I got to know because of Tuesday Night Cafe, Tuesday Night on Tour, and the interconnectedness of people doing work in the Asian American community in and around LA: Aratani Courtyard. Señor Fish. Lost Souls Cafe (gone now). Remy's On Temple. A house in Gardena. GoGo Boba (also gone now). Oiwake. Monrovia Library. Scripps College. Renato's Coffee. Cafe Metropol. Cafe Dulce. Rascal's. Las Galas. Fugetsu-Do. East West Players. Visual Communications. Equal Action. There is so much love in Los Angeles, I am overwhelmed. 

5. What I witnessed most and try hard to carry with me: the spirit of generosity-- so much of it and all the more beautiful for how natural it seemed for so many people to give of themselves, to give their time, their attention, their sweat, their monetary support, their creativity, their art, their food, their laughter, their willingness to connect. It is that generosity that made me fall in love with Los Angeles. That generosity is necessary to survive in a city like Los Angeles.

I donated to Tuesday Night Project this year because I know how important it is to have spaces which help anchor people to one another, in real time, in shared space. TNC was and still is that kind of space for me, wherever I am in the world, and I hope that it will continue to be that for others. 

So many sweet memories. (From TNP's website. Info's from 2010-- they need donations to help update it!)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Dayshot: Climbing in Donner Pass

My most recent climbing milestone: Leading Composure the Snowshed Wall back in June.  My second trad lead this year. 
Making the last moves to the anchors.
There's probably only so many more times I should climb on other people's gear without having even a nut to offer, so I'm slowly saving up for my own rack. I still need a lot more mentorship/training in building trad anchors, which I really should have learned to do long before leading my first pitch. I'm spoiled. 

Donner Pass was a super fun place to climb. The granite was delicious, and I got a taste of Grouse Slabs bouldering, which only made me yearn for Bishop. There's an itch in my legs to run off to the Eastern Sierra that I'm staving off. I'm working regularly again, paying off various wandertime debts, making rent each month, and putting a little bit away for the next extended wander/climb trip. In the meantime, Oakland is proving to be a good place to sit, stretch, grow

Monday, July 22, 2013

Tonight! Centering All Bodies Yoga

I've been spending the last few Monday nights at my friend Desi's free community yoga class. Please share the flyer below. For some reason a Google search for "Oakland Peace Center"shows a place on Market Street-- don't be fooled! It's actually near Lake Merritt

Centering All Bodies Yoga
A Free Community Class
Monday Nights - 7:00pm-8:30pm
Oakland Peace Center 
111 Fairmount Avenue
Oakland 94611 

It has been one week since the verdict came down in Florida. During last week's class, we heard helicopters trolling the Trayvon Martin gatherings in Oscar Grant Plaza. It may be no different this week. While there is so much to be angry about, so much to fight for, it is as important as ever to address the needs of our bodies. 
Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare. - Audre Lorde

Monday, July 15, 2013

Letter to the Local Police by June Jordan

Who gets to belong in a neighborhood? Who can get hunted down and pushed out? Who decides who has the right to live?

Read this poem a collection of June Jordan's poetry called Naming Our Destiny. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Saratoga Springs, as of the 2010 Census, is 90% white. I couldn't find what the demographic was in the 1970s when this poem was published, but I can guess it wasn't much different then.

Letter to the Local Police
by June Jordan
Dear Sirs: 
I have been enjoying the law and order of our
community throughout the past three months since
my wife and I, our two cats, and miscellaneous
photographs of the six grandchildren belonging to
our previous neighbors (with whom we were very
close) arrived in Saratoga Springs which is clearly
prospering under your custody 
Indeed, until yesterday afternoon and despite my
vigilant casting about, I have been unable to discover
a single instance of reasons for public-spirited concern,
much less complaint 
You may easily appreciate, then, how it is that
I write to your office, at this date, with utmost
regret for the lamentable circumstances that force
my hand 
Speaking directly to the issue of the moment:
I have encountered a regular profusion of certain
unidentified roses, growing to no discernible purpose,
and according to no perceptible control, approximately
one quarter mile west of the Northway, on the southern
To be specific, there are practically thousands of
the aforementioned abiding in perpetual near riot
of wild behavior, indiscriminate coloring, and only
the Good Lord Himself can say what diverse soliciting
of promiscuous cross-fertilization 
As I say, these roses, no matter what the apparent
background, training, tropistic tendencies, age,
or color, do not demonstrate the least inclination
toward categorization, specified allegiance, resolute
preference, consideration of the needs of others, nor
any other minimal traits of decency 
May I point out that I did not assiduously seek out
this colony, as it were, and that these certain
unidentified roses remain open to viewing even by
children, with or without suitable supervision 
(My wife asks me to append a note as regards the season but
nevertheless seriously licentious
phenomenon of honeysuckle under the moon that one may
apprehend at the corner of Nelson and Main 
However, I have recommended that she undertake direct
correspondence with you, as regards this: yet
another civic disturbance in our midst) 
I am confident that you will devise and pursue
appropriate legal response to the roses in question
If I may aid your efforts in this respect, please
do not hesitate to call me into consultation 
Respectfully yours,

Sunday, July 14, 2013

No Justice Today

It is a heavy day. I am thinking about the little boy who lives across the street. To some people, he was born a statistic, he is already a threat. I wonder whether he has seen the news. He is probably less than ten years old. As young as he is, I am sure he has some understanding of what the verdict means.

I wonder whether his parents have already decided never to let him wear a hooded sweatshirt or walk alone to the corner store because he might be hunted down and killed.

Again, we have affirmation that the system in place in this country places little value on black and brown bodies, whether it's through imprisonmentsterilization, or outright killing.

I am thirsty for some kind of justice. And I know that it is hardly enough.
Trayvon Martin is dead—and so many young men like him are dead or in prison—because in America it was his responsibility to take it. It was his responsibility to let a stranger with a gun follow him at night in his own neighborhood and suspect him of wrongdoing. It was his responsibility to apologize for being a black kid who scared people. It was not George Zimmerman’s responsibility to let a boy get home to his family. 
- Cord Jefferson, "The Zimmerman Jury Told Young Black Men What We Already Know"

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Topsy Turvy Queer Circus

The 8PM show was sold out, with people lined up at Brava Theater around the block. Fifteen (?) acts of queer circus amazingness with a high concentration of steaminess as well.
Don't worry most of the folks in this picture can be caught performing around the Bay Area. 
Body Waaves at Ships in the Night (Photo credit: Elisa Shea)
Rumor has it there's going to be another Topsy Turvy Queer Circus in next year's National Queer Arts Festival. Oh, yes.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

DIY Basic Granola

It's way too hot to think of using the oven right now, but for future crunchy oat cravings, here's my process for homemade granola:
  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • splash of vanilla
  • a heavy dusting of cinnamon

I usually make a double batch of this recipe. I keep this scrap of paper taped inside a cabinet for easy reach. 
Mix all of the wet ingredients together before tossing in the oats.
After mixing everything together well, press the oats down into an oiled baking pan or dish, and return to it every 15-20 minutes for a toss. For looser oats, stir vigorously. To keep more clumps, just turn it over gently-- or not at all, even.
Though I've made this recipe three or four times now, I still get worried when the oats don't look golden brown yet after a full hour of baking. This is when I might turn the temperature up to 265º, which actually isn't necessary-- just keep baking and checking every 15-25 minutes until it's the color you want. If you're interested in adding chopped nuts, add them to the pan in the last 25-30 minutes to help them get even crunchier.
Try to resist eating all of the warm, toasty granola. Let the oats cool in the pan, add dried fruit if desired, then store in an air-tight container. 

I like just keeping the granola plain so that I can add things as I like. After making granola at home, I'm ruined for the store-bought stuff, which never seems quite as crunchy or fresh tasting any more. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Angry Reader of the Week Thoughts

I'm Angry Asian Man's Angry Reader of the Week. The feature began in 2009 and has been a cool glimpse into what Angry Asian America looks like. What a privilege it is to be able to share thoughts on this platform; I started reading Angry Asian Man as a young student organizer at UCI and it continues to be a way of feeling engaged with what I'm starting to understand is but a fraction of what Asian Americans are up to. The site's aggregate approach to Asian/American-related media highlights our relationship with mainstream media and also the innovative ways Asian America communicates with itself and with the broader community.

After sharing what makes me angry, my mind has naturally turned to what I have been doing about those things. I touched on so much, writing down most of what comes to mind when I think about things that get the fire going in my chest and steam coming out of my eyes. But what do I do beyond that? How do I engage with the world so that I'm doing more than feeling it? 

The thing that immediately comes to mind is that I write about some of those things. I'm a writer. I didn't identify as one in the interview, really, because it still feels strange to identify that way when my daily practice is primarily personal, and because I've become much more sporadic in sharing my writing lately. There's been a lot of inward-turning lately, a side effect (benefit) of the critical self-reflection practiced with such intention in Public Allies Los Angeles. I think often of what I read in one of Grace Lee Boggs' books: that there is a need for a stop or pause to the industrial machine, the economic machine, so that we can take stock of how our society is (or is not) meeting people's and the planet's needs. 

It is perhaps an impractical idea systemically, but as an individual it has felt really good to pause in a lot of outward action and practice serious reflection on how I want to move through the world and how I want to contribute to it. I worry that there are ways in which becoming focused on certain kinds of work forces us to neglect some of the other ways that we can work to live more sustainably and humanely with each other, and that doesn't feel right either. That we have a system that creates this dissonance is another thing that makes me angry. 

I end the Angry Reader interview with the idea that we who can do something, must. I realize I'm saying that for myself more than for anyone else. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Three Great Events I Won't Be At This Week (also, Videos)

Woke up with Quincy's "Summer Days" song in my head the other day, which of course made me think of Los Angeles. I'm always thinking of Los Angeles. 

This week is thick with events! Some of which Audrey Kuo has recorded me performing at.

Tuesday, June 4 - Tuesday Night Cafe

From last July, my last time featuring as an LA resident. Holding of cities and lovers, which doesn't contain the piece I actually read: "morning glory."

Thursday, June 6 - [common ground oc]

CG is the first and only reading I've done this year. Perhaps with the coming of summer I'll find myself reading in a public (or, more likely, public-ish) setting in Oakland. No hurry. Marinating on my 2013 chapbook, which I've declared will be done by late summer.

Video taken, again, by the dear Audrey. This is my entire CG reading. Someday I'll actually watch it.

Friday, June 7 - OUTspoken Sessions

I remember Equal Action's first announcement at TNC back in 2009, my first year as stage manager. A queer youth of color open mic. I was delighted. I'm so glad they are still going strong as an organization, and that I've seen them transition to having youth take on more and more of the leadership and facilitation roles. No video of myself there. Their theme this show is intersectionality, which they've posted this quote to help define:
If you're in LA, pick at least one. If I were in LA, I might go to all three.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Dayshot: Creatures in South Berkeley

I wonder whether both are feral. Coming from Los Angeles, biking is a significant change of pace, a way of moving more slowly, being able to stop and pay attention. And now, with things even closer together, I realize that there are things that I miss while biking, too. Walking is the next change of pace, the next slowing down. 

I took a long walk with my housemate and his pup last week and came upon these two creatures:
Cat napping in front of what could be some kind of auto-cat.
I am greedy for time, greedy to feel that I have it in abundance. Slowing down is a way of laying claim to my time and feeling like a human being, not only a human doing. Not everything needs to be done as fast as possible. 

Unless, as in this case, you have a jar of gelato melting in your backpack and so you forgo the urge to pet the auto-creature and cat and settle instead for a quick snapshot.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Beautiful Things At & After Mr. Hyphen

I went to Mr. Hyphen recently. It was my first foray to an Asian American event since beginning life in North Oakland in late March. The magazine and event have been on my mind since college, and it was a little surreal to be there. For some reason, this event just seven hours away felt very far from me when I was an undergraduate at UC Irvine all those years ago. I take it as a good sign when it feels like things are coming full circle. Which brings me to the winner of Mr. Hyphen: Sean Miura, curator of 1st&3rd Tuesday Night Cafe, among other things. 
Photo by Intwined Bows
Beyond dancing and wrapping cable with him in Aratani Courtyard, I recall midnight forays for carne asada fries in Gardena and long talks about each of our histories in consciousness of Asian Americanness and the Asian American movement. We've talked about our processes of politicization, and shared passion over the music of the API movement-- artists who came through TNC, artists on other coasts, artists from thirty years ago. He shared a wealth of MP3s with me and I fantasized about him leading a TNC dance crew. We talked about history. A lot.
Photo by Vincent Trinh

At Mr. Hyphen, I got to see an integration of everything Sean is on stage at Brava Theater: his humor, his sincerity, his passion, his (sigh) puns, and all of it rolled up into his dance:

Watching Sean made me wistful for Los Angeles and moved me to write poetry of questionable quality. It was evident that he had put a huge amount of effort, care, and energy into preparing for Mr. Hyphen, fueled by a deep commitment to Tuesday Night Project. I'll be celebrating in spirit with everyone at tomorrow night's TNC for all the gaff tape the $1,000 prize will buy.

Photo by Vincent Trinh
I was inspired by Niño-Pierre Galang's discussion of the importance and power of knowing our mother tongues. Thinking about my fluency in Khmer has always been a big part of my struggle as a poet and writer-- it is so strange to think about how such a big part of me has always felt in a way separate. He talked about how important learning Tagalog has been to him. What place does language have as we reconcile our Asian/American identities? Is it a novelty? How do we make a place for language?

Last week I went to have lunch with family for a cousin's birthday. One of our relatives has an adorable baby daughter. Conversation around the dim sum table veered to the other parents telling her to read to her daughter every night. She recently immigrated from Cambodia and English is her second language. She joked that her daughter would be reading to her soon enough. A feeling boiled up in me and I asked her whether she also had books in Khmer to read to her daughter.

I could have cried when she said yes. I was relieved that this little girl will grow up with a different relationship to language, to Khmer, than I grew up with. She's second-generation as I am, or maybe she's 2.5, and she's growing up in a different emotional climate; one in which the echoes of war are farther back in time, and in a different socio-economic status. I know this doesn't mean negotiating her Asian American or Khmer American identity will necessarily be any easier, but it's comforting that perhaps she'll be literate in Khmer and will able to relate to her parents in a healthier way than I did growing up.


Not being fully employed and also not yet receiving paychecks means I hesitated to buy the $30ish dollar Mr. Hyphen-plus-magazine subscription package, but it felt good to spend money supporting a community institution-- and realizing that thirty dollars is less than I would spend on gas for some climbing trips. And now I'll get stories of Asian America delivered to my doorstep.

Happy Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

"You're Gonna Move To Bishop, Aren't You?"

Very very tempted, especially now that Black Sheep has a beautiful big new space-- I've been told that they have beer and an open mic night now. I could write and share more rock climbing poetry. I might move to this climbing paradise some day, but not any time soon. 

For now, I'm enjoying Oakland and looking forward to trips to Yosemite and South Lake Tahoe during the coming warm months. 

Some photos from 4.5 days in Bishop

We drove through the night on Wednesday and arrived early Thursday morning. This is how I felt:
Photo by feesh
It was interesting being there for a bouldering-centric trip. There were a lot of bouldering pads. So many that I slept on one and used another as a desk:
I still managed to get two days in at Owens River Gorge. I climbed a lovely long route with great exposure in Upper Elbow Room. I can't wait to try more of the areas that are farther from the approaches. China Wall, All You Can Eat Cliff, Warm Up Wall and Pub Wall see so much action, but there's a lot of fun to be had just a few more minutes in.
The group got motivated enough to wake up before dawn so we could watch the sun come up from a hotspring:
Being outdoors all the time makes it feel healthy to have bacon, bread, and eggs for breakfast every day. This day, I happened to also have avocado. Don't forget the Tapatio (which is made in Vernon! LA love forever).
I got so wrapped up in trying boulder problems that I hardly took any pictures during the days at the Happys and the Buttermilks. But someone did! 

I fell soon after this photo was taken. After I'd gotten through what was supposed to be the harder part. Forgot all about my feet because I was busy sassing someone (not pictured). Next time, Green Wall.
Photo by kilajoules
A bunch of us tried this problem with a swarm of mosquitoes devouring us:
Photo by kilajoules
So much fun climbing with a bunch of awesome women, many of whom are involved with developing a climbing app

Climbing, poetry, and community. So far 2013 and Oakland have been pretty good to me.

Friday, April 26, 2013

All I Want is Some Sunshine and a Nice Place to Climb

I just returned from five days in Bishop, when I got to climb at Owens River Gorge, the Happys, and the Buttermilks (trip report-ish thing coming soon). I haven't been very interested in celebrating my birthday these last few years, but the trip was a great way to begin a new year of life. 

Now, I'm back in Oakland, enjoying the gentler sunshine of the East Bay, but missing all the rocks. I live two miles away from a very nice climbing gym, but with long summer days on their way, an empty wallet and a wealth of time, it's hard to think of climbing indoors. Indian Rock, Mortar Rock, and Cragmont Park are just a few miles away, perfect for getting my climbing fix in between the longer trips.
On Pegboard. Photo from Superbeta
When I do go to gyms, Bridges is my favorite for being small and homey and reminding me most of Hangar 18 in Hawthorne... and because they have such a good Groupon deal. ;)

Saturday, April 13, 2013

If I Were in LA Tonight: Generation Return // Anida Yoeu Ali Art & Justice Tour

Days before I left Cambodia, I finally gained the will to step out of my hermit/incubation period to take an opportunity to sit down with Anida Yoeu Ali at Java Cafe & Gallery. We were able to talk for a precious half hour or so about her work with Studio Revolt, our experience as a Khmer American woman in Phnom Penh, reconciling our Khmer and American identities in Cambodia, poetry-- listing the topics we brushed against makes me realize what a concentrated conversation that was. Perhaps this is what it is always like in the diaspora.

Tonight, Anida's Art & Justice Tour lands in Long Beach, just in time for Khmer New Year. If I were in LA, and if this weren't in conflict with a shoot for TWSS2, I'd be there.

Catalyst Network of Communities will host artist, writer and global agitator Anida Yoeu Ali in her public performance entitled “Generation Return: Art & Justice Post-Genocide and Post-9/11” during the 2nd Saturday Artwalk of Long Beach, CA.
Ms. Ali will present and discuss her works and ideas about contemporary justice and its residual effects on the Cambodian American experience.  
Ms. Ali is actively engaged in international dialogues, community activism, and artistic resistance to multiple sites of oppression. She upholds the belief that art is a critical tool for individual and societal transformation. Ms. Ali, born in Cambodia and raised nearly all her life in Chicago, returned to live in Cambodia in 2011 after nearly 3 decades away. She is part of a returning diaspora of artists and thinkers creating narratives of Cambodia beyond war and poverty. Through her spoken word performance and video clips, she will present a body of work which provocatively considers the diasporic past/present contours of the Cambodian American experience. The video works include her collaborative media lab, Studio Revolt, and their cinematic works with the Khmer Exiled American community (who constitute the deported diaspora).
Art Exchange
356 East 3rd Street
Long Beach, CA90802
It's my third and final New Year of the year, and I'm celebrating by giving my bike some much-needed love today, and spending tomorrow at wat with my aunt and her family in San Jose.

Not until Khmer New Year arrives, one quarter of the way into the Gregorian new year, do I really feel like the transition from the last year is complete. Since the first new year on January 1, I've transitioned between continents, cities, and living situations, and now, with the arrival of my final new year, I feel firmly grounded in a time of building.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

National Poetry Month Begins Tomorrow

And with it, National Poetry Writing Month
As I did last year, I'll strive to write a poem a day at Long Cool Hallway. A little nervous about this as I'm also occupied with my transition to Oakland, but I remind myself that there is always time

Easing into Oakland

I lived in eight different places in Los Angeles 2007-2012, and for each one, I had a self-imposed deadline. Some less defined than others, but I treated them all as temporary. For the first time in my adult life, I've entered a living situation with the intention to stay in it for longer than a few months or a year. I have no plans to leave in the near nor distant future. It's a new feeling. A good one. 

A friend asked me to catalogue my process in transitioning into Oakland life as they are planning to move to the Bay Area this summer.

Here are three things that I've done so far to make this place home:
  1.  Before I even fully made the move to Oakland, I got my Oakland library card. There's something comforting about having a library card. Having fun isn't hard.
  2. I scaled and gutted a fish on the front lawn. It's not that weird to scale or gut a whole fish, but it's not something often seen, and to do it publicly helped me feel more ownership of the space.
    Scaled, gutted, stuffed with kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass, ready for the oven.
  3. Walks and bike rides around the neighborhood. This is particularly relevant for me coming from LA and for people who also come from automobile-centric cities. Get to know the neighborhood streets even if they're not the most scenic. Say hello to people walking their dogs or tending their yards. It makes things feel less unfamiliar. 
I'm maintaining a spirit of openness to what life in my new environment will be like. New and unfamiliar places provide an opportunity to re-evaluate what is really necessary. And what is really necessary also changes sometimes, depending on where we are. If you carry few expectations that life will or has to be anything like it once was, you have more of a chance at seeing what is possible.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Music for When I'm Lonely for LA

My friend wrote about songs that define his LA after reading this BuzzFeed article. Here are a few of the artists who are LA to me.


I have playlists that remind me of driving up to Oakland the first time last year, and of my first trip to Owens River Gorge, music that conjures images of winding through Los Padres National Forest and down Tioga Pass out of Yosemite.

I'm in the process of planting some roots in Oakland. I'm more committed to making the transition now than last summer. I wonder what Oakland will sound like to me. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Reading at common ground OC Tomorrow

I'm so happy that the common ground space exists, and I'm thankful that I've had the good fortune of being invited to read there a few times since it began in 2010. 
common ground is organized by progressive Vietnamese American community members, artists, and activists committed to cultivating a positive and safe healing space for artistic growth and community empowerment. The common ground collective builds collaborations across communities and supports the work of social justice spaces.
I remember how happy I felt at Tuesday Night Cafe when the first organizers made the announcement about starting the space, how exciting it was that something like this was starting in Orange County, a place that is as inundated with a reputation of stodgy conservativism as Los Angeles is with a reputation of glitz, glamor, and shallowness. More proof that it's always possible to find what you need wherever you may be.

I'd been planning on attending the March 7 show since I was in Cambodia, long before I was invited to read and before I knew that the theme would be "Food for the Soul" in honor of National Nutrition Month. That theme feels good. When asked what "Food for the Soul" means to me:
“Food for the Soul” is: plain rice porridge with artfully spoiled fish; a tiny, sweet tomato plucked from a scrappy, well-loved garden; a long conversation over tea or coffee about all that is serious and/or silly; setting foot on the land your grandparents raised your parents on; sharing a favorite poet with a new or old friend; lengthy email correspondence; receiving letters by post. In short— all that nourishes, whether through vitamin content or sentiment.
My body and soul got a lot of nourishment from the three months I spent in Cambodia. I look forward to sharing some of the writing that came from it.

See more info about CG on Facebook and Tumblr.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Glad to be Home

Now that I am back in California, I am intensely craving this sandwich:
Photo by Anthony N.
It is a fried chicken sandwich from Bakesale Betty in Temescal. I'm currently transitioning back to the U.S. in Los Angeles, where there is no Bakesale Betty's. But that's okay. When I return to the Bay Area in a few weeks, I will have this sandwich. And it will be very satisfying. I know this to be true.

Production on That's What She Said Season 2 is going well. Got right into it as soon as I got back. We had a shoot at Casa De Luna Coffee House last weekend. The owners are wonderful and have been supporters since Season 1. Hard to believe that it's been four years since I first set foot inside that cafe, soon after it opened in 2009. 
These ladies make Los Angeles home.
Spring seems to be arriving already. Warm in the sun, cool in the shade. Makes it hard to think of leaving LA.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Ho Chi Minh City Excursion // Dayshots

The week before Tet, I went to Ho Chi Minh City. I went mostly to see my friend David, but also to spend some time by myself, without family nearby for the first time in weeks and weeks. 
I rode the Mekong Express bus to get there. Hopped out as we crossed the Mekong River.
The Mekong.
I wonder what the river will be like after the mega-dam is built.
We had a dusty stop just before crossing the border on National Road 1.
Exchanged USD into VND and became a millionaire.
Most countries' money is prettier than the USD.
Com tam is my favorite.
David had a snazzy, fixed up Honda Super Cub. Saigon is lovely to ride around in at night. Unlike in Cambodia where only the driver has to wear a helmet, passengers also have to wear them in Vietnam. You can see both helmets dangling at David's knee.
I splurged and stayed at Song Anh Hotel, right in downtown. Traveling alone, and feeling very soft from so long in the cozy embrace of my family, I decided to forgo the backpacker area.
The hotel employees thought I was weird for taking stairs instead of the elevator to my 5th floor room.
Saw this on my last day. But heard it over and over again throughout my trip.
Mostly, I roamed around the city on foot, drinking papaya smoothies, munching on street snacks, and sitting in the shade in the many lovely parks in the city. The French colonial influence is much more apparent in HCMC than in Phnom Penh. I felt like I was in the Paris of Southeast Asia.
General Post Office designed by Gustave Eiffel.
It was so different than being in Phnom Penh; though traffic was still quite congested, the streets were not as dusty, and I wasn't worried about hygiene at the streetside food stands. Though, I was not so concerned in Phnom Penh, either. Within month two of my stay, I was drinking the tap water at my aunt's house and having ice in beverages with abandon. I figured I'd acclimated enough at that point, and I was tired of boiling the water; I figured most of the harm would come from chemicals moreso than bacteria, and boiling would just concentrate them. That logic might be flawed. Another part of it was being tired of the stream of plastic water bottles that kept coming my way. And whether it makes sense or not, it made me feel closer to Cambodia to drink the water. There are people drinking out of muddy streams and wells with arsenic in the water. I figured I could handle the municipal tap. And I'm okay (not that I'm recommending others to so). 

One of my favorite parts of the trip was sitting by the Saigon River sipping coffee with David on my second night. We talked about Los Angeles, and what it's like to move from one town to another, and how Southeast Asia is quickly adopting the hurried pace of Western civilization. It seems that people don't really make time for one another-- spending time together is just a part of life. But now there are gated communities popping up, and the nuclear-family-based culture is increasingly taking hold, and I think about how lucky I was to grow up in a multi-generational home, without any distinction between "family" and "extended family."

I'm rambling. I'm sitting in a cafe in Little Saigon. It feels good to be home. So many things to do. So many places still to go. I have a loose timeline. I have a little cash. I have a lot of loved ones. I feel lucky.