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.

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