Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Farewell, Suzi.

After 7.5 years and over 100,000 miles, I've let Suzi the Tiny Camper go.

We were in an accident that caused major cosmetic and minor structural damage, and then I found that she needed serious engine repairs. And so, it was time.

I took a photo of her good side as she left.

There is mourning, and of course I would rather have not been in a collision, but this unfortunate event was a significant source of self-learning and a catalyst for a kind of milestone in my family life.

Starting 2017 car-free. That actually feels pretty good to me. We'll see how long that lasts.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

One Week Later

I've spent the last week digesting the news, trying to sort out all the layers of what the election results mean to me, how they've affected me, and how they will impact this country. It has been hard. It has been really hard. 

I can see how Donald Trump appeals to those who have grown tired of being asked to empathize with immigrants, with people of color, with LGBTQ people, with women, with people whom they do not consider "real" Americans. I can see how Donald Trump represents dreams of money and power and freedom. 

I wish there were a way to sum it up so that those who voted for Trump might be able to hear me, to be in conversation with me, to empathize with the hurt that so many of us are feeling right now. That will explain the rage that so many of us are feeling right now. I want so badly for that to be possible.
I woke this morning with my composure cracked because the implications of Trump's win have become more clearly articulated in my mind.
  • I am the child of refugees. The inherited trauma of what my parents and grandparents and older family members have been through has been triggered in a way that I have never felt before. We have talked at length and often about the difficulties, the terror, of their years in Cambodia during Khmer Rouge rule. I consider how things were in Cambodia before April 17, 1975. How there were those who could see what was coming and fled to the US, France, Australia, before tanks began traveling down the streets. And there were those who perhaps could see it but could not leave, those who had some sense of dread, but could only go about their lives affecting normalcy. I have a suspicion that "normal" changed by slow, small degrees, much as Trump's presidency and cabinet appointments are being normalized now.

    And I recognize how I have been grieving and angry but for the most part still living life as normal, going to the ceramics studio, working, cooking, seeing friends. How news fatigue settles in. How this is what many of us are doing. And there is a feeling in the pit of my stomach that hunkering down is not and has never been enough. That perhaps it would help me survive, but that the cost might be higher than I can stand.
  • I am an outdoor educator. On expeditions, it is imperative that groups build trust and respect. We emphasize valuing diversity and inclusion, and I work hard to hold my students to high standards in their behavior and language toward one another. Our safety depends on being able to work together and take care of one another.

    Trump's win is an affront to everything I've been trying to teach. It tells us divisive, rude, sexist, Islamophobic, and racist behavior will not keep a person from winning the top office in this country. That so many in this country do not hold him to anything near the standards that I have asked of my students. 
Many people want to argue in abstract terms, many request not to be lumped in with white nationalists, racists, misogynists, Islamophobes, homophobes. I don't have the energy to provide that kind of reassurance right now. There is fear and dread, there are echoes of horrific histories, and there is an enormous grief. 

There is a part of me that still does not believe that Trump's administration will actually take power in January. And I know that I have to fight against that disbelief because what we need now is to strategize against that event. 

Monday, October 31, 2016

My DIY Pottery Trimming Tools

When I began studying ceramics in 2014, I became enamored with the precision techniques and guidance provided by Hsin-Chuen Lin on his YouTube channel. At the time of this writing, he has 250+ videos showing and sharing his techniques, his tools, and demonstrating his extensive pottery skill.

One of the most harrowing parts of making wheel-thrown pottery is the trimming process, which entails getting to the clay when it's dried enough but not too much, centering the piece once again on the wheel, and holding the tools correctly. Mr. Lin's videos helped me learn how to tap-center (practice) and how to have contact between my hands and the pot at all times when possible.

Because I love DIY-everything, I particularly enjoyed his video on how to make tools out of hacksaw blades:

I contacted Mr. Lin and he allowed me to visit him in his studio and watch him work. My friend Ash took some gorgeous photos that day.

I was inspired by the video and the presence of a blowtorch in my house to make my own tools from some old knives.

Blowtorch, a bastard-cut file, two pairs of pliers, a bowl of water, an old knife.

Got rid of the pointy bit.

Dulled the part of the blade that I wouldn't be using, and sharpened the square edges. In hindsight, I should have sharpened a bit farther down the blade, to have a better corner for trimming. 

The plastic handle melted a bit because I kept the knife in the flame too long. Oops.

This tool has treated me relatively well, but it has to be sharpened quite frequently if I want to avoid unintentional chattering. Perhaps it's so hard to avoid because the tool is so thick? 

Of course, I couldn't stop with that one. More bent metal things:

My favorite and most effective one is the one in the center-- perhaps because it's thinner, it holds the edge better? The one on the left is very sharp, but it is a bit too pointy for most of my trimming needs. 

A video of me trimming a bottle using that favorite tool:

A video posted by narinda heng (@narindaism) on 

Friday, September 30, 2016

10 Days at Indian Creek // The scabbiest climbing trip

I had my first visit to Indian Creek, splitter crack climbing paradise, back in April. During those 10 days, I scraped myself up more than during any other climbing trip. I sustained a giant scab on my ankle that took about two months to heal and fall off.

I loved it.

The struggle, the athleticism, the 100+ foot pitches, the campground that felt like a neighborhood by the time I left. I can't wait to get back. I don't know if Creeksgiving is in my future, but next April, perhaps? 

When I got my windows tinted, the "Justice for Oscar Grant" sticker was removed-- accidentally? Somehow my Black & Pink and NOLS Wilderness Medicine stickers remained intact. Odd.  I replaced it with this intersectional Black Lives Matter sticker (designed by Matice Moore) I got at Queer Magic Makers last year. 

Gorgeous crags, gorgeous high desert skies.


I questioned the wisdom of having my manual typewriter with me while living out of my car for the summer, but it was worth it to sit and tap with this view. I finished this page right as rain began falling. I'm grateful that afternoon thunderstorms forced me to take rest days, otherwise I would probably have wrecked my body even worse.

Hammocks are wonderful. 

The 10a warm up pitch was not too bad at all. I led it after this couple climbed. 

These two gearing up for Pente (5.11) on Reservoir Wall. I toproped this in an incredibly ugly and painful fashion. I'd like to think that next time it will go better now that I sort of know how to jam. Note to self: probably not a good first-day-at-the-creek climb. 

Gloomy skies, bloomy cacti.

I brought my poetry and pottery with me, and left some copies of my chapbook on the message board with a note looking for climbing partners. I wasn't sure it would work, if anyone would read it, and then one morning Emmanuelle (far left) came up to my campsite and invited me to join her, Cylvie (far right) and Peter (the photo-taker) in their climbing. They were a wonderful crew to hang out with. To my right in the photo is Anh from Denmark, another solo traveler we met at the campground. In their hands are pieces of my pottery that they bought/bartered from me.

I was nervous about sharing my poetry, but I'm so glad I did. And I can't wait 'til the next time I get out to Indian Creek.

Location: Creek Pasture Campground, Indian Creek, Utah
Cost: At the time it was free, but as of September 2016, it's $5/night
Amenities: Pit toilets, fire rings.
Note: Must bring in all water and firewood. No wood collecting!!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Violence-Free Begins With Me

Last month, before heading out to instruct GirlVentures' Transitions course, I was a guest speaker at Violence-Free Begins With Me, an API Youth Forum held by the Center for the Pacific Asian Family.

I spoke about my experience growing up queer and Khmer American, what it was like coming into my identities, and talked about becoming an outdoor educator and explaining the work to refugee parents.

To stand in front of a group of Southeast Asian youth who were from the same places I'm from and tell my story to them was an incredible opportunity.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Dayshots: Catalina Island Aquaponics and Poppies

I spent a couple of days at the Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies in March. On this visit, I got to check out the new(-ish) aquaponics system in the greenhouse. 

These goldfish shall be switched out for tilapia at some point.

We ate that head of lettuce for dinner. It was glorious. 

Such pretty roots.

The sun was strong in the green house. 

Rainwater catchment and filtration system. 

I took a stroll in the hills surrounding campus and noticed island poppies for the first time.

They were a pleasure to see after a disappointing bloom at the Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve.

Didn't get in the water very much on this trip, but did walk down the ramp for a quick dip before getting on the boat back to the mainland. I dream of a writing residency on the island someday.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

National Poetry Month // Tuesday Night Cafe (and Los Angeles) for always

I was invited to collaborate with Shin Kawasaki for Tuesday Night Cafe's Season Opener on April 5. He's a talented musician and I wasn't sure exactly how our collaboration would work, considering I can't carry a tune nor play an instrument, or even keep time very well (I am usually that person who starts out clapping on beat, then off-beat, then stops clapping). But I said yes anyway, because I'd never worked with him before and was intrigued at the opportunity. The last time I'd read poetry with a musician on stage was years ago, also at TNC, with my good friend Cyril

Shin and I met for lunch before my trip into the San Rafael Wilderness (again, with Dunn School) and got to know each other a bit over tacos. It turned out that we had things in common that we'd never realized, and that there was a synchronicity to things that I've been writing about and things that he's been thinking about. We then worked on song lyrics together over email until we could get together in person again-- the Sunday right before TNC.
We met at his rehearsal space in Downtown LA (which he shares with other musicians to swoon over) to refine the lyrics to the song. It was magical seeing how he took the words we wrote together and put them to music. And the process of writing together, too, was new and really cool for me. I learned how a song breaks down into chorus, refrain, bridge, verse. I don't think I've ever collaborated so closely with anyone on a piece of art before-- with spoken word, I would come together with other poets, each of us with our own words. Somehow having the addition of music helped in that process. Or, it was just Shin. Shin is awesome. 

The song that we came up with was inspired by our mutual friend and longtime TNC Resident Artist David Tran aka Applesauce. David was actually the first person who ever took one of my poems and turned it into a song (which I like much more than the original piece) called That Kind of Love. I have to admit that my music listening habits haven't changed very much in the last five years, and that song (along with many other Applesauce songs) are still very much in my usual music rotation. Shin and I both visited David in Vietnam at different times, and those experiences made their way into our song. I left our Sunday session feeling inspired and wondering when I might collaborate with a musician again. And then we filled up on delicious tacos again, this time from a little spot on 1st Street I'd never been to before. There is always more delicious to be found in LA. Always. 

I dressed for radio.
The next day, I had a climbing date at Malibu Creek with one of the other Dunn School instructors. I appreciate Malibu Creek and the accessibility of climbing in LA in general so much more now that I live in the Bay Area, where few 5.10 sport climbs are to be found within an hour's drive, though, yes, Yosemite is just 3.5 hours away.

After climbing, I went straight to (In N Out and then) to KPFK, where Quincy and I spoke with Saba Waheed on Flip The Script about TNC. I read a couple of poems, talked about what the space has meant to me as a writer/artist/community member, and touched on family and Khmer American identity. You can listen to the show here.

And then, the day came. The Tateuchi Democracy Forum was packed to the brim. I wasn't as nervous beforehand as I usually am before getting on stage. Even with all the different faces in the crowd and behind the scenes, the space still felt like home-- there were so many wonderful familiar faces, still. Also, as I said to fellow poet Audrey Kuo, it was a queer Asian American poetry quadruple decker sandwich on the stage that night! In addition to the two of us, Jenevieve Ting and Jess X Chen each graced the stage with their poetry.

Shin and I got to close out the night. I read a few pieces while Shin played in the background, and then he got ready to sing our song. I walked offstage to sit and enjoy, but was urged to get back on stage. I was offered a mic, but I declined. I also insisted that Sean get up there with me for moral and pantomiming support. I was so happy when others joined us, (around 2:40).
My sleepy introvert tendencies had me leaving soon after the show ended, but it was a lovely, lovely night. I'm so glad to still be a part of this community after having left the staff and then the city years ago. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Big Sur, Big Rains // A loop around the Silver Peak Wilderness, Part 2

Finally finishing this up after spending time in LA, doing a trip with Dunn's Sophomores, and a personal backpacking trip with friends along the Pine Ridge Trail in Big Sur.

Thursday PM: Estrella Campground to Spruce Campground

The navigation out of Estrella was challenging, and I have to give the students a lot of credit for finding the route. There were a few use trails which led to impassable spots, and we had to explore up and down the creek to find a way. Luckily, one of the students in the other group had mentioned to us a knee-deep water crossing, which was key in helping us find the way. While I tend to prefer to navigate based on landmarks and terrain, the compass was extremely useful after we crossed the creek, and I wish I had it out sooner as it would have saved us some time. I was thankful for my students' patience and their ability to stay in good spirits. 

On this stretch of Salmon Creek Trail, we were stopped in our tracks by deadfall-- two large trees had been knocked down across the trail, making it look impassable. I tried to scout out a way around it down the hill, to no avail. Here was another lesson for me; I could have saved time by looking more closely at the deadfall first. It turned out that the trees were stable, though of course awkward to get around with a big pack. I helped them each across and many of them found that it wasn't as hard as they originally thought. 

The rest of the way to Spruce was, thankfully, very straightforward. The girls later told me that I started hiking very fast after we crossed that obstacle. I was eager to get to camp, and glad to take advantage of the downhill trail. We came upon Spruce Camp very suddenly after crossing a low creek, and walked past it to the trail junction because it seemed to come up so soon. There was no signage at this campground other than an arrow pointing to the trail across the creek and one of the students adamantly said she would make a sign there so that no one else would make that unnecessary .15-mile uphill trek. I'm not sure it happened, but it was a nice thought. 

At this point, knowing how much poison oak we'd just trampled through, I passed around some poison oak wipes for everyone to use on their face, hands, any skin that had been exposed during our hike. I haven't yet had a poison oak reaction myself, but that doesn't mean I won't. Sneaky plant, that. I'd previously used Tecnu for washing off poison oak on trips, never wipes, and I still prefer it. 

That night, during our satellite-phone check-in (the connection was awful), I learned that more bad weather was coming in, and we were to hike out early the next morning and get back to school rather than to have the planned car-camping night with the other groups. I facilitated a small closing ceremony after letting everyone know the new plan. There was some celebration by the students that there would be one less night of camping, which is to be expected with a compulsory trip, and I let them know that I regretted that they wouldn't be able to gather with the other hiking groups as planned. Sharing experiences with one another before returning to school is a very special part of trips like this, and would probably have been extra interesting for them with all the weather-related challenges we had in the beginning.

It was a very warm closing ceremony, and we got to bed early. Just before turning in for the night, I found a tick attached to my left side, explaining the strange ache I'd felt there all day. In my fatigued state, I pried the tick off ungently before even thinking to reach into the first aid kit for tweezers. Ticks have to be attached for at least 36 hours to transmit Lyme Disease, and tiny nymphal ticks are much more likely than adult ticks to stay attached for that long. Still, upon returning to town, I was glad to be prescribed a round of antibiotics (doxycycline) as a preventative measure.

Friday: Spruce Campground to Salmon Creek Trailhead

We woke for our very last morning stretch at 6AM, put out breakfast, and began to take down camp. As predicted, at 7AM, the first drops of rain began to fall and quickly escalated. We got out of camp 1.5 hours after waking, and covered the two miles in around an hour. Everyone was in relatively good spirits, which is not surprising since we were heading toward hot showers and warm, dry beds.

The last mile winding down toward the trailhead was especially lovely, the switchbacked hills covered in poppies, beautiful even with their petals closed against the rain.

There was much rejoicing as we reached the vehicles-- we were the first ones out. Soon after we arrived, a school vehicle pulled up. The trip director was in the process of evacuating an instructor for a severe poison oak reaction. By the time the evacuation happened and all the groups were out and ready to caravan, the storm had fully established its presence.

Back to School

Statistically speaking, driving is the riskiest part of most outdoor programs. The hour spent winding around Highway 1 under sheets of rain and gusts of wind required my full concentration. The students slept through it, for the most part. There were moments when it poured so hard that I considered pulling over just before they passed. I felt sweet relief upon pulling into the gravel lot back at Dunn.

The students were gathered, gear was collected, and they were dismissed at around noon. Due to the change in schedule, the post-trip clean-up which students would typically participate in was left to us instructors. Not ideal or efficient, but so these things go sometimes. Gear cleanup and storage is a vital part of all trips, and I wish the students had been able to participate in it.

Thankfully, the next day and a half were sunny and warm as we dried out the tents, laundered the sleeping bags, tested and fixed the stoves. And then we were done.

After Thoughts

I would love to return to the Silver Peak Wilderness and do this same loop on a personal trip. Some of the erosion along the trails is worrisome, but manageable. This trip was the first time I held such primary responsibility for wilderness skills and risk management, and to be honest I started out quite intimidated. I heard somewhere that a great way to learn something is to teach it. I became a backpacking instructor two years ago with only two short personal trips under my belt, and I'm continuously refining my skills and learning more about pedagogy and facilitation. This recent increase in responsibility has improved my confidence in both my outdoor skills and my leadership skills, and it's taught me that I still have a lot to learn about managing time, giving structured and unstructured lessons, and facilitation.

It's surprising how these trips seem both long and short. Something about being removed from your daily context that does funny things to time. One moment it's only beginning, and all of a sudden it's over. I look forward to the next. 

Friday, March 25, 2016

Big Sur, Big Rains // A loop around the Silver Peak Wilderness, Part 1

The first trip of my outdoor work season was a backpacking trip in Big Sur's Silver Peak Wilderness with 11th grade girls from Dunn School. When I arrived at Dunn for orientation and prep, I learned that I would lead an all-female-identified group, including the faculty member, which was somewhat rare for Dunn, and solidly in my comfort zone, since I had begun my backpacking instructor career with GirlVentures. It was a welcome surprise.

Monday: Los Olivos to Forks Campground (or so we thought)

We set out from Los Olivos with the intention of doing a point-to-point hike in the Ventana Wilderness, but Big Sur received such a deluge in the days prior that two of the roads to our original trailhead were closed and the trail itself was impassable. The creek we were meant to cross had swelled enormously and was moving fast; crossing it was beyond the scope of our trip as well as objectively dangerous. This, along with the poor condition of the road we had just driven up, which another group would have to drive down with bad weather in forecast, necessitated a change of plans. As we hiked back to the trailhead, I asked the faculty member whether they had ever had to cross water like that. In past years, she said, her feet had barely gotten wet. 

We camped that first night at Santa Lucia Memorial Park Campground, setting up our tents during another bout of rain and retiring soon after dinner in the cold. The next morning was clear, thankfully, for our drive down to the Silver Peak Wilderness, where we would hike this loop:

Tuesday: Salmon Creek Trailhead to Buckeye Campground

We parked at the Salmon Creek Trailhead lot, which is a few minutes' walk south of where Buckeye Trail starts. Our goal that day was to get to Buckeye Camp, which would have us traveling 3.75 miles and climbing about 1700 feet in elevation. Needless to say, that was a challenging first-day hike, especially since we had spent the morning driving down from the Ventana Wilderness and did not start until 1:00 pm.

The girls were great about adjusting to one another's needs, whether we were dealing with physical challenges or motivational ones. We hiked as a close group, and I was thankful that I didn't have to continuously remind people that no matter what, we could only go as fast as the slowest hiker anyway. In groups where some want to go faster, I've found that oftentimes we've reached the destination later rather than sooner; people get so tired that rest breaks are longer and less efficient, and there are many more aches and pains to haunt us along the way.

We made camp at dusk, when we found a spot that, though it was not the flattest terrain, we had a kitchen with glorious ocean view. The stars that night were magnificent-- the best I saw the entire trip.

I was relieved to finally be in the backcountry after our frazzling first day. The gentler weather certainly helped, too.
The next day, we realized we had been just half a mile or so short of the actual Buckeye Camp. Though it was a lovely meadow with a picnic table and trees, most (all?) of us were glad that we stopped when we had.

Wednesday: Buckeye Camp to Lion's Den

This second day of hiking was to be our longest, with the map and trail signs telling us we'd have anywhere from 5 to 7 miles to cover that day, over varying terrain. We climbed up the rest of Buckeye Trail and headed east on Cruickshank Trail, passing one of the other groups along the way, who were doing the reverse of our loop. They warned us of thick brush, poison oak, and knee-deep water that would be on our next day's hike. We filed away that information while focusing on the miles we still had ahead of us before that night's camp.

We all began to hit our stride on this day, I think, with students showing their aptitude and interest in navigation, natural history, and traveling over unfamiliar terrain. We saw beautiful manzanitas and madrones, shrubby trees with smooth, chocolatey, surreal bark which love a little elevation and Mediterranean climes.

There were exposed trails, some of which were quite eroded from the recent rain, leading to a few instances when I passed a trekking pole back for students, or closely spotted them as they made their way down startlingly steep trail. Again, they showed their commitment to an encouraging environment and helping one another get through the experience safely.

One thing to remember when hiking across exposed, eroding trails cut into steep mountainsides: keep moving! Steadily and calmly continue forward until you reach more stable ground; taking very slow steps or hesitating will only give the ground more time to weaken beneath your weight.

Just a quarter mile or so before Lions Den Campground, on the ridge, we stopped for a snack break in the shade of the chaparral. Since it was the midway point of our trip, I took some time to revisit Leave No Trace ethics as well as the group's hopes and fears, which we had shared before the trip began.

We then descended into Lions Den Camp, which we were to share with another group from the school. Students are always so thrilled to see one another even though they've only been apart for a couple of days! We allowed the groups to spend fifteen minutes together (which instructors and faculty were also glad to spend), and then we each went back to our own camp chores for the night. It all went very smoothly.

One student from the other group was super impressed that we had gone all the way from Buckeye and made it to Lions Den just an hour or so before them-- they had started 1 or 2 miles ahead of us at Upper Cruickshank Camp. I praised our group for their efficiency in getting out of camp, typically one of the biggest challenges/time-eaters when backpacking. We took advantage of the clear evening with a post-dinner lesson, and then prepared for another early (though not quite as early) start the next morning.

Thursday AM : Lions Den Campground to Estrella Campground

We woke at 6:45 and had camp packed up (and foot care done!) by around 8:30 that morning-- another praiseworthy effort. While the group was eager to begin hiking, a few had new complaints about their packs, and I took some time to take a closer look.

It takes experience to get used to the many minute adjustments that can be made throughout the day to keep a pack comfortable, and students sometimes are not aware of how packs are supposed to fit. There are places where it's normal to experience aches and discomfort, such as around the hipbones, but any time students express pain in the back or shoulders, it's worth finding a good stopping point to fiddle with adjustable torsos and attachment points for loader straps (the straps above the shoulder that help pull the upper part of the pack closer to your back). 

Another note on pack-fitting is that when a higher-capacity pack in my size is available, I go for it-- this saves a lot of time and grief, and over-stuffing can lead to a pack no longer fitting comfortably, not to mention putting unnecessary stress on the fabric and zippers. If you have trouble getting all of your gear inside the pack the first time, it's not going to get much better even as you eat your food. It's much easier to have too much room and cinch down the pack.

The stroll along Cruickshank Trail to Coast Ridge Road was quite fast, leading us to question the trail sign stating that Lions Den was a whole mile away.

We could see the valleys all around us, and could almost make out the ocean through some haze. We stopped for a few photos. A solo hiker (the only person we encountered who was not from the school) came upon us and also warned of the thick brush along Salmon Creek Trail. I was confident that we would be fine, since it is much different to walk uphill through thick brush than charge downhill. 

As we made our way down, we could really see what they meant. Chaparral, live oak, sharp succulents, and plenty of poison oak all grew close into the trail. For those of us in the 4'11 (me) to 5'3 range, it wasn't too bad, but we really felt for our 5'11 group member, who was having to push through or duck below all the stuff growing above our heads. She assured us that she was fine. A couple of other students said "This is actually fun!" The trail was clearer as we made it to Estrella Camp, where we stopped for lunch. We were tempted to make camp there, it was so nice, but we had many hours left in the day, and the lure of a shorter hike out the next morning motivated us on. 

To be continued... 

(Wow, this post is longer than I imagined it would be, but I'm enjoying reliving the trip-- tomorrow I begin prepping for a trip with Dunn's sophomores. Hopefully I'll be able to write Part 2 before we set off. There are no photos from this trip because I ruined my old-but-good camera during my very wet and cold trip in Alaska last year, but I've acquired a new, water-resistant camera for future trips.)

Monday, February 29, 2016

Suzi the Tiny Camper

What outdoorsy person (or person tired of paying rent to absentee/neglectful landlords in unpleasantly gentrifying neighborhoods) doesn't love scrolling through #vanlife photos, reading about how people outfit their Sprinters or cargo vans, imagining what their perfect camper van would be like? Since leaving LA and spending more time outdoors, I've spent a lot of time reading articles about building sleeping and storage units in cargo vans, Honda CRVs,  and even a Toyota Echo "micro-RV." I spent a lot of time since my journey to Lander poring through Craigslist, contemplating Ford Econolines and conversion vans in various stages of repair.

And I just couldn't make the leap. I spend most of my time driving around the Bay Area and Los Angeles, and Suzi is pretty comfortable for me when I'm solo-traveling, which is often. I have quite a lot of affection for this little vehicle. She has been so good to me for the last 7 years. I was also chagrined to note that my car-restlessness falls perfectly in line with the average number of years it usually takes people to switch cars. Suzi deserves better than that! 

I'd slept with my feet in the trunk of the compact car quite a few times with the backseat folded down (October 2012 in Bishop was the first, I think), and last year I finally took out the backseat entirely (instead of just keeping it folded down) and built a platform. It's simple, sturdy enough, and only took an afternoon to build. The idea to do it was in part inspired by a setup I spied in the back of someone's Camry in Lander, but they had a shelving unit built on one side that I never did get to. 

It's no feat of construction, but I'm happy with this little platform. I only very rarely miss being able to transport more than one person at a time.

One piece of 4'x8' beech plywood. Cut like so, with a handsaw.

Corner brackets.


The piece that's at an angle is for stability, the piece that's straight is to accommodate the center console.

The legs rest on the floor, the platform rests in the frame. Lines up pretty well with the floor of the trunk.

I do not recommend using a JetBoil inside a vehicle. The windows were open and I did not burn myself or my car. I usually sleep on memory foam, but that was rolled into a backrest at that moment. 
A somewhat safer configuration.
Suzi's at 180,000 miles right now. I'm hoping to hold onto her for 20,000 more, parental disapproval and fancy vantasies be damned. Anyone else out there have the back of their sedan outfitted for sleeping? I'm sure I'll get a wagon or SUV or van or something roomier someday, but for now, Suzi suits me just fine. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

'mangos' in Oakland Asian Cultural Center's new zine, I AM HUNGRY

A poem from my first chapbook (Tracing Steps) has been reprinted in a zine by the Oakland Asian Cultural Center. I'm glad that pieces from that chapbook continue to be distributed, as I'm out of copies (audiobooks are available).

You can read the zine online, and hard copies can be acquired from the OACC for a $2 donation. The center is located in a shopping plaza above the Oakland Public Library, at 388 Ninth Street, Suite 290, 94607.

There was a zine release party last Sunday at the OACC's space in Chinatown, where some of the contributors (and a contributor's grandparents) shared their work with supporters. I read a piece from my newest chapbook, from somewhere along the way.

I was glad for the opportunity to connect with other writers, though I did not get to speak to everyone I wanted to. I can only hope that as I get more intentional about building community here, we'll cross paths again.