Friday, June 29, 2012


I have completed the last step in my wardrobe plan, since I have decided to not abandon the graphic tees.  I have bought a pair of grown up shoes.  Plain mary janes, no heel, in teal leather.  They may take a few weeks to arrive.  I should not have spent the money, not right now, but I did.  I am going to be a grown up.  You'll see.

Thank You Pork Bun

It's true that there is more than this. I am cherry picking my data. I am also from the incredible racket that mah jong tiles make when they are all crashing into each other at once. I am from barbecue pork buns and rice with soy sauce, so much of it that these days I can't stand it anymore. These days I eat rice with butter and salt and pepper. I am from red pocket money instead of gift wrapped boxes, yucky moon cakes in autumn, my Chinese grandmother's birthday party with little old Chinese ladies singing karaoke Chinese opera, the memory still makes me shudder. I am from the stone lions in front of our house that I tried to get my friends to steal, but no one ever did and now it's my father's house that they are in front of, sad bewildered stone lions, too heavy to move so why bother?

There was one Chinese person in my life, one voice compared to the multitude of people who I talked to every day, who I befriended and loved, who I listened to, who I read or saw on TV or who sang me to sleep at night on my tape player, one voice against the juggernaut that is the culture I have lived in for 32 years, and that one voice didn't even try. She never tried to make me Chinese; she assumed it was a failure from the start. She has never said, you are like me. She has never said, this is also part of who you are.

I am familiar with parts of America that other Americans feel lost in, or rather I am so used to that feeling of being lost that I don't notice it anymore. Hey look, a street with no signs I can read. Hey look, smells I can't identify, and sounds I can't decipher. It's old hat to me. And that makes me different from other Americans. It makes me Other. But it doesn't make me Chinese. It makes me an American woman with an estranged Chinese mother. My friend's boyfriend who taught in China for three years is just as used to being around Chinese things, is more used to them, than I am. I am used to Chinatown. I'm not used to China. I've never had to live among Chinese people, never had to follow their customs from day to day. I just go shopping, buy some knick knacks, eat a pound of barbecue pork, and then go home.

I am aware that I am different. But my difference is so much more than this that it all gets mixed up in my head. I am not the All-American-Girl, but it's not just my face. I never had the right clothes or the right hair and I never saw the right movies, and that is something I got from both of my parents. I read books instead of having sleepovers. I was fat and bad at sports and good at school. I kissed Joanna in the hallways. I wore chain mail and corsets to school. I didn't believe in God. I am not-straight, not-white, not-male, and not-Christian in a hetero-normative, anglo-normative, male-normative, Christ-normative country. I am used to not having any role models who look like me. I am used to strangers coming up to me at work and asking if they can take my portrait because they're doing a school project about race. I am used to people having expectations for me, because of the way I look or who my mother is, and I'm used to them being disappointed when I fail to meet those expectations. When people came to my house, they expected exotic. My mother cooked spaghetti.

I'm half-Chinese-American, which is not the same as white-American. None of my friends speak Chinese, but I'm the only one who feels guilty about it. They all like barbecue pork buns, but they don't remember summers spent sitting in my mother's office reading fantasy novels every day for two weeks in the summer, and going downstairs to the Chinese supermarket to buy fried rice and barbecue pork for lunch and fighting over who gets the last piece. It always comes down to barbecue pork.

Short Girl Photography

Week 6, part 2: delight

I love my new tattoo.

I love it so much. I keep admiring it in the mirror during dance class. Whenever there's a free moment, I am looking at myself.

Which is weird.

I am not unaccustomed to self-admiration. I admire many things that I am or do. But I'm not used to admiring the way I look in a mirror. I look in the mirror and aim for yeah, okay. Sometimes, I manage to achieve better than before. Taking delight in my appearance, even this one small part of my appearance, is a strange and new experience.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

What I Mean

It's all the little things that we never notice until they change, the assumptions we don't realize we're making.  How far apart we stand from each other, how loudly we speak, the way we hold a spoon, what we find attractive, what we find strange, what we find comforting, the temperature of our drinks, how we expect others to behave, what we consider rude, the speed we walk, or talk, our relationship with time.  The baseline by which we compare everything to. 

When I say that a faculty member is a close talker, which makes me moderately uncomfortable every time we have a conversation, I mean that he stands closer than most Americans do.  When I say that Midwesterners are sometimes passive aggressive, I mean in comparison to Californians.  If I am describing someone to you, and he is white, I will say "he has short hair."  If I am describing someone to you, and he is Asian, I will say, "he is Asian, and has short hair."  I didn't live in a town where everyone's parents were strangely lax, I lived in a house where my mother was strangely strict.  My baseline for all my expectations was not my own household, it was everyone else's.

I am from pink stucco outdoor shopping malls, and open school plans, I am from He-Man and X-Men and Smurfs and My Little Pony and Strawberry Shortcake.  I am from minivans and after school classes.  I am from picnics with my grandparents on Memorial Day and the 4th of July, and turkey and pie on Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I am from "jello salad" and spaghetti and hamburgers.  I am from Girl Scout Camp songs and two horrible seasons of soccer.  I am from learning the sign language for "Let There Be Peace on Earth," and "All Good Gifts."  I am from Christian Youth Theater and high school drama.  I am from Rogers and Hammerstein, and "Alternative rock" radio, and thinking that Tori Amos was the only one who understood me.  I am from my first concert at fifteen and my first road trip at nineteen.  I am from dirty clapping rhymes and porn hidden in the bathroom of my dad's machine shop.  I am from running barefoot from the bus stop to my house, and then, finally, setting my burnt feet in the pool in the backyard.  I am from a green velvet off the shoulder dress that was shorter in front than it was in back, that I wore to Prom my sophomore year and then to morP my junior year because I was totally getting into irony.  I am from the cool kids doing a performance of "The Wrong Stuff" at our D.A.R.E. graduation to the tune of New Kids on the Block.  I am from The Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley Twins and Anne McCaffery and Piers Anthony.  And this is only the beginning of what I mean.

That was the easy part

It's easy to define with negatives.  It's easy to say what something is not.  This is just the beginning.  What I want to do is talk about what is.  What it means, to me.  Coming up next.

Me and Neil Stephenson

I have many flaws, but "quick to anger" is seldom among them.  It usually takes me a few days before I look back at something and think, "hey, that pisses me off."  And by the time I've worked up some good ol' righteous indignation, it's far too late to do anything with it besides posture grandly in front of my bedroom mirror.

So, when faced with the idea that I might not be culturally American, that my foreign-ness outweighed any sense of belonging I might have here, my immediate and total fury was more than I knew what to do with. I am unaccustomed to fury. I simmer, I don't explode. I gesticulated. I yelled. At everyone. I was going to make Angry T-Shirts, in case someone happened to look at me during a non-yelling moment, they would know I WAS MAD.

Looking back at this, I realize that, in 32 years, no one has ever questioned this. Especially not me.

There are lots of aspects of self-identity that I have questioned, debated with myself, with others, and eventually resolved, for the present time at least, into a reasoned answer. I have questioned my sexuality, my political beliefs, my social allegiances, and while I've never doubted my femininity, I have tried many times, unsuccessfully, to explain why it is so. I know that I am a woman, and it bothers me that I don't know why I know it. I have questioned my Chinese-ness many times. But never the opposite.

You know how there are patchwork-quilt-Americans and melting-pot-Americans? My father is a melting-pot American. The point was not to stitch together differences so that those differences complimented each other, the point was to melt it all together and dissolve the differences. I knew I was American because my father told me so, proudly. I knew I was American because my mother told me so, sadly. My American-ness was one of a thousand things about me that disappointed my mother. Sometimes it felt as if my American-ness was the root of every one of those thousand things that disappointed my mother, that if I were Chinese, I might be her daughter for real, I might deserve to be her daughter. But I wasn't. I didn't.

In my family, the family that I know, we are short, busty, with broad shoulders and smaller hips. I look like my grandmother, like my Aunt L., like my cousin C. I have moles, and freckles. I have broad, flat, feet. I look nothing like a bird.

I wasn't even as Chinese as the other Chinese-Americans. The kids at school with Chinese parents, who, like me, grew up on pink stucco and palm trees and surfers and hamburgers and french fries and Saturday morning cartoons, their parents made them learn Chinese. They spoke the language, they knew how to use chopsticks, and no one ever looked at them with embarrassed curiosity and asked what are you? Perhaps people asked if they were Korean or Japanese or Taiwanese. But it was the specifics that were up for questioning. People looking at me didn't know where to start.

As an adult, I can look back at my relationship with my mother and realize that she was offended by everyone and everything, and that no amount of cultural similarity could have saved our relationship. But at the time, I thought that if only I could be her Chinese daughter, I might be able to make her happy. But all my memories of interacting with Chinese people, or Chinese things, are memories of being different, of not belonging.

I remember that I went to China, once, and discovered that there were no forks at the restaurant. Being very hungry, and unable to use chopsticks, I kept the two wooden pieces attached at the top, and used them like tweezers, pulling them apart and letting them snap together around a piece of food. Sometimes I would just try to stab at things, and spear them on the blunt wooden tips.

I remember sitting at a table filled with Chinese people while my mother talked in Chinese. I couldn't understand a word of it, but every once and a while, I heard my name. My mother gestured towards me, and then everyone laughed. And then they talked some more. I looked down at my bowl and ate my rice with a fork.

I remember the first time I had dim sum without my mother. I had brought friends, who all looked at me expectantly, to lead them with my extensive knowledge and experience. I felt like a fraud.

I like to tell people the story of my mother tapping on the table at restaurants. I only knew this because my father once teased her for doing it at an Italian restaurant. I would tell people the story of the Chinese emperor who disguised himself as a commoner and was waiting on his servant. The servant could not properly bow to his emperor without giving away the disguise, so he made a bowing gesture with his hand. I know this story, because I read it in a cyberpunk novel. The story about demons and straight lines came from the same book. Sometimes it feels as if I have learned more of my "heritage" from white men writing science fiction than I ever learned from my mother.

And it is because I have always doubted my Chinese-ness that I have never questioned my American-ness.  Because it was always presented as a kind of zero-sum game.  My American-ness is to blame, it took up all the room and left no space for anything else.  It is all I have.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

little things

I think it's funny that, being the source of my scarring, it's that e e cummings poem that ended up meaning so much, since I don't actually agree with it.  I think that feeling vs. syntax is a false dichotomy, and while feeling and communicating are not the same act, the pursuit of one doesn't mean the abandonment of the other.  And I think it's awfully silly for e e cummings, who made a career out of playing with syntax, punctuation, and language in order to better express concepts and emotions, to mock other people for doing the same.  Although, it is a beautiful poem.  There is that.

Also, further data:

(And I swear that this time, really, I mean it, I will not spend the weekend undoing this, I will stick to my damn diet, I will stop adding M&Ms to my lunches, I will I swear I will this time.)

Some days (a run-on sentence)

There are days when, out of nowhere, I'll be driving to work or playing on the Xbox, and I am suddenly overwhelmed by embarrassment and I feel like I might collapse under the weight of every stupid thing I have ever done or said and I think that someday it will be too much to face, that I will no longer be strong enough to go out into the world and live in it, and it will be this that finally beats me, not the mistakes I've made or the harm I have visited on others, it will be the embarrassing things that I can't bear any longer.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


(because I have two work computers and one home computer plus all the other ones I end up on)

Monday, June 25, 2012

since feeling is first

I was a cutter in high school, sort of. Sort of a cutter, I mean, not sort of in high school. I wanted to hurt myself, and I wanted to leave marks. But I didn't actually want it to hurt. I traced designs into my skin with a safety pin (the irony not lost on me, not at all), scratching over and over until the lines were red and swollen. Most of the time, I didn't draw blood. But by the next morning, scabs would form over the lines that I could "unsuccessfully" hide from the world.

In high school, I wanted to be a poet and a calligrapher, and one night I tried to write poetry in blood because I thought it would be cool. (Talk about pretentious, overwrought, angst.  Yikes.)  I made shallow incisions in my upper left arm and stuck the tip of my calligraphy pen in them. It didn't work very well, but the cuts scarred, more than anything else I'd done. The blood kept clotting in the pen, especially since I wasn't producing very much in my little cuts, but I managed to finish the line I was writing:

for life's not a paragraph

and death i think is no parenthesis

e e cummings

I would have been sitting on a beige shag carpet on the floor of my bedroom. (There were five exits from my bedroom: two windows that led to the roof, a door to the bathroom, which I didn't share with anyone, a door to the closet, which was really a short hallway into another small room, just big enough for my twin mattress and some books, and the door to the rest of the house. I named the little room at the end of the closet Edgar, and slept in it most nights. My boyfriend went down on me in Edgar but I wasn't really into it and then I wrote a poem about the experience for English class. I don't know why that matters.) I was writing in blood on plain copy paper, the kind that my mother the accountant bought in 5-ream boxes. I might have been listening to music. The Cranberries, or Nine Inch Nails, or REM.

I keep thinking about the copy paper. And the carpet.

Later, I began to try harder to hurt, and less hard to show, although I still took a grim pride and pleasure in leaving marks. I would hit the tops of my thighs with my fists, which didn't really do much, either for causing pain or leaving marks.  Sometimes I would hold a pair of metal scissors, handle down, and pound the handle into my legs, which was more effective on both counts. It never made nearly as spectacular a bruise as when I was climbing over my mother's car in the garage and slipped and banged the outside of my thigh against the bumper. That left a huge mess of green and purple and people worried that my boyfriend might be beating me. I was jealous of that bruise, because I could never manage to do it myself.

I was thinking about this, lying on my stomach with Kris scratching lines into my legs with an ink-filled needle. When I washed my legs for the first time, after, the water ran dark with blood and ink. I am still writing other people's poems in blood.

I am making new cuts to cover up the memory of old cuts. 

(Or maybe it just sounds good to say so.  I'm a sucker for pretty words.)

since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;

wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world

my blood approves,
and kisses are a far better fate
than wisdom
lady i swear by all flowers. Don't cry
--the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids' flutter which says

we are for each other: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life's not a paragraph

And death i think is no parenthesis

Week 6: bad

I feel pretty bad about this.  Also, my ankle itches like a motherfucker.

ETA: Chart re-uploaded with correct math.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

First photo, second thoughts

First photo:

Second thoughts:

I have been getting a nagging, not-good feeling about the latest boy.  Not an "unsafe, stay away" vibe, but a "too controlling," "wants too serious, too soon," kind of vibe.  He wants to plan, like, seriously, plan, a "first date."  And I'm thinking that even the term "first date" is a little presumptuous.  He likes how, in a semi-long distance relationship (two hours and a bit away), it makes time spent together more important.  I'm thinking about how that's what I don't like about it.  I think that's a bad way to start things.

And part of me thinks that I'm just sabotaging myself.  Part of me thinks that, between my low self-image and the scarcity of dates, I think that anyone pursuing me is creepy because they're pursuing me.  Part of me thinks I'm making too much meaning out of too little data.  Part of me thinks I should give him a chance.  But part of me doesn't care.

I've done controlling.  I don't want anything to do with it.  I'd rather err on the side of wishy washy, spineless, and timid, than date someone who will try to control me again.

So, I don't know.  I don't know what I'll say.  I don't know if I'll send him the photo of the tattoo that I said I would. 

ETA: Sent text. Am breaking things off. It's strange, breaking things off with someone I don't actually have a relationship with.  Hopefully, it's done.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Advertising space

I don't know if I've given a proper shout out to Kris at Endorphinden.

Friendly, understanding, makes beautiful work, and has an uncanny knack of knowing exactly what I want, usually better than I do.  I'm smitten. 

(And, btw, Kris is Endorphinden.  Kudos to her for running her own shop.)


Getting my legs done today.  In 4 hours.  I'm feeling rather struck by the impact of this.  I've wanted this, in general, for years and years, and I've wanted this, specifically, for, oh, six months.  And I'd feel bereft of it if I changed my mind and chickened out.  But... wow.  This is a bigger deal than the last two.  This is making a serious change to my body.  This is becoming a tattooed person, instead of a person with tattoos.  This is deep breath in, and hold, and release.  Wow.

Tomorrow when the farm boys find this
freak of nature, they will wrap his body
in newspaper and carry him to the museum.

But tonight he is alive and in the north
field with his mother. It is a perfect
summer evening: the moon rising over
the orchard, the wind in the grass. And
as he stares into the sky, there are
twice as many stars as usual.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Masters of the Universe

Not sure what will become of the "stuff I wear" posts.  Not sure if I care enough to continue.  I feel like a fashion blog needs to be a fashion blog, and a not-fashion blog really isn't improved by the occasional fashion post.  Also, I cringe a little inside when I use the word fashion, because it seems so far removed from what I'm talking about.


I am pleased with this:

This is an honest-to-god elementary school teacher's skirt.  (Which, obviously, wrinkles easily.)  I actually got it from an elementary school teacher.  That makes it some seriously bona fide grown up shit.


Duties and Qualifications

I can write for pages about the nature of language or love or the color blue.  But ask me to write a paragraph describing the job I supervise? 

It looks like that ^^

Week 5, part 2: normal

Now that I've finished excising vacation pounds from my waist, it's back to normal.  It's always so much slower and more disappointing when I actually have to work to get progress.

I've also been following this post, and it's comments, and I can't decide if it's helping by being the conversation I want to have, or if it's just keeping me stuck on a subject I ought to stop talking about.

I'm not even sure if I want to stop talking about it.  I want to let go of the unhappiness associated with the discussion.  But is letting go of this discussion, this self-evaluation, this idea I have wanted oh so much (y'know, for the last week), going to make it happen any faster?  Is the voice in my head telling me to stop talking about this already just the voice of "it makes you look desperate?" 

I get tired of hearing myself talk, sometimes.  I mean, I talk a lot.  In my head.  So I hear myself all the time.

My mother said, as she was driving me to my psychiatrist, I can't argue with you, your English is too good, you're just like your father.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

I made another illustration.

But I wasn't very inspired by the words that went with it.  So here you go, an illustration of why I have no trouble with the current definitions of the gender binary:

What I learned from being gothy in high school.

I live in a world of almost, and sort-of, and partly, and yes but also no, you see, it depends.  I live in this world because it was the only one available to me.  I never had a choice.  I am made up of almost, and sort-of, and partly, and if you don't mind asking, what are you?  Sometimes two things are true at once, and sometimes those two things are mutually exclusive, they cannot exist at the same time, and yet they do. 

I never met a binary opposition I couldn't take apart.  And once I started, I didn't know how to stop.  Even when things really are black and white, there are shades of black and shades of white.  Just look at anyone wearing a black t-shirt and black jeans.  They're never the same.  I had a gothy phase in high school.  I know all about shades of black. 

We make words for things because we need words for things.  We categorize because we don't have the brainpower to keep everything separate.  We look at this

 And turn it into this


 And in this scale, it makes sense. 
 This is orange:

This is red:

 But when you look closely at that line, it is never as obvious as it seems.

When you live right next to that line, sometimes you can't figure out what that line is doing there at all, it is an arbitrary barrier that someone else put there, between you and what you could be, if only you had room to stretch out, if you could just reach across—

Wait till you see the shoes.

I have a SWORD OF RIGHTEOUS INDIGNATION! It is big and I can smash things with it! Also I have glittery shoes! 

I have a Sword of Righteous Indignation. It is big. And heavy. Also, glittery shoes. 

My arm hurts. Can I go now?

In other news, I am at 190 pounds this morning.  I am so ready to move past 185.  That's my magic number, because it was my goal and lowest point from the last time I did this.  Once I get to 185, I start breaking new territory.   I am ready for new territory.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What they look like

New Skirt

New Bag and New Skirt

T-Shirt + Tattoo + Sunburn
Yeah, my puff-painting skills are a little rusty.

Skirt math

Lets say you want to make a skirt, six panels, wider at the top than the bottom.  Let's say you want to use up as much of your fabric as you can.  If you can get two strips of fabric that have a height of the length of the skirt, here is how to cut the panels.

For my example, I am using 2 yards (72") of fabric.  After cutting off a bit for the waistband, I have two rectangles that are 18x72" each.

If you were going to make square panels, it would look like this:

Where the width of each square was equal to 1/3 of the total length (24" x 3 = 72" total).

But, you don't want to make square panels.  You want trapezoids.  You want it to look like this:

So the question is, what are the measurements of the trapezoids?

1. Take the total length of your fabric and divide by 3.  This is measurement A.

2.  Divide A by 10 and round up.  This is measurement B.

3.  The small side of the trapezoid (will be the top of the skirt) is A-2B.  This is measurement C.

4. The long side of the trapezoid (will be the bottom of the skirt) is A+B.  This is measurement D.

5.  The distance between the edge of the fabric and the small side of the trapezoid is D-C divided by 2.  This is measurement E.

So, in my example:

A= 72" / 3 = 24"
B= 24/10 = 2.4 (round to 3)
C= 24" - 6 = 18"
D= 24" + 3"= 27"
E= 27-18/2 = 4.5"

Two yards is plenty of fabric for a skirt.  I have a 44" waist, and this will still be 2.3x bigger than my waist at the top.  This skirt will be nice and poofy.  If you are working with a less ample fabric size, you will need to make sure that Cx6 is bigger than your waist, even accounting for seam allowances.

I almost never actually work out exact patterns and cutout plans before I buy fabric, which means that most of my patterns are worked like this, starting with the dimensions of what I've bought, rather than buying to match the dimensions of the pattern.

Monday, June 18, 2012


I didn't want to lump this with weight and money

I have a lot of mental cleaning and organizing to do.  What goes where, what gets taken to Goodwill, what goes in the basement, and what stays around, cleaned and fixed up and ready to be used for something new.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Blank space










Two out of Three Lists

Things I do when I'm miserable:

1. Knit
2. Sew
3. Listen to sad music
4. Watch The West Wing
5. Complain aloud
6. Complain silently
7. Stay busy
8. Avoid being alone
9. Make lists

Things about Mike that weren't enough:

1. He was honest
2. He was loyal
3. He was thoughtful
4. He was caring
5. He was supportive
6. He treated me well
7. He loved me

Friday, June 15, 2012

You don't need to explain how it works, I moved here from Oakland, remember?

I miss trains.  The Subway, the EL, BART, the Metro, the Underground.  I miss the smoggy light on the tracks before sunset, the fluttering reflection of the skyline in the windows of a train going by.  I miss the press of bodies, the beauty and elegant simplicity of train maps.  When I get to the platform everything snaps into place.  It's the world at street level that I have a hard time with.  Skimming over, or under, it all just passes by.


Also, pictures! Not mine! Chicago!

I went on vacation. Which meant I walked around Chicago for two days, danced, saw mariachi burlesque, went swimming in Lake Michigan, and then totally collapsed and spent 10 hours sitting in a hotel watching TV on this laptop.   And then I went home and played a LOT of Skyrim.  The animation for a successful backstab?  AWESOME.  I am badass.  In my basement.  Playing a video game.

Also, Fenna took pictures. During the non-basement part of vacation.  This is my new favorite picture of me:

Also, this is my new favorite picture of me:

(Technically, a screen capture from video)

This is Hipster Lady Gaga Death. Possibly my Halloween costume this year.


It's a funny feeling, this certainty. I think it might feel a little like faith. It's not that my mind is at odds with my belief, but the agreement between the two feels redundant.  As if the agreement was just a coincidence, rather than the cause.  And I have the sneaking suspicion that if there were reason to change my mind, it wouldn't matter.  I don't need reasons.  I have belief. 

After the third paragraph, I decided to just post

I looked at all the other places, too. Upper back made it look like it was part of some super schmaltzy scene with the fish and I hated it. Thigh will mess with the poem.  And the thing is, what makes it feel intimate is the fact that it can't be seen.  It's not how sexualized* or otherwise meaningful the specific body part is, it's the fact that it isn't visible.  It feels secret, private, because my body under my clothes is private. Also, part of the point is having it being seen.  It's just that being seen is also part of the problem.

It isn't wrong any more than my losing weight is wrong. But I dislike it for the same reasons: being seen with this feels like being seen with "diet food" etc., it's still supporting an aspect of our culture that I dislike, even if I, personally have good reasons for it, not everyone will know those reasons. And if I make it look like a joke, it takes away the actual joke, which is the fact that it looks like the dumb ones.

It's absolutely in the same vein as the bird (and I had the same reaction, a million years ago, when I thought of the bird). But it's also a criticism, more so than the bird is, which makes it more like "I'm being ironic" than "You're awesome." It's more negative than the bird, which makes me feel like it's something I'd be more likely to regret than any of the others I've done (or will start on Friday). 

Most of this is moot, anyway.  Because I'm getting that feeling of this is how it is, the feeling of rightness that I got when I first wrote down the Laura Gilpin poem.  And it's in contrast to the feeling of wrongness I get when I think of it saying anything else, or going anywhere else.  Any other suggestion feels wrong.  It's an almost physical recoil, like the idea is gross.  It sticks in the pit of my stomach.  I never really had a chance of talking myself out of this.

So there it is, from concept (in the car on the way to work yesterday morning) to decision 24 hours later.  And the considerations in between.

*Seriously, Firefox?  Sexualized?  You have a problem with that?


Thursday, June 14, 2012


Sort of like this.  (I realize I've switched arms, I don't have very many photos of myself.)  Also the characters are not correct, I just grabbed a few to get a general idea of how it would look.

This is a terrible, terrible idea.  It contributes to a culture that I disapprove of.  Even if I'm participating ironically, I'm still participating.  It's like hipster racism.  And I could fix that by putting it somewhere that wouldn't be seen without getting to know me pretty well, so by the time anyone saw it, they would know what it means and why, but those places seem so much more serious.  Personal and intimate.  And that's not what this is.  It's personal, sort of, but not intimate.

Sigh.  I think that I could think of silly things to tell people it means.  Or even just telling people what it really means.  There's a woman online who has a matching tattoo with her partner, and people ask what she will do if they ever break up, and she says, deadpan, Well, obviously I'll cut my arm off.  I love that.  I feel a similar sort of feeling picturing myself saying, deadpan, It means thank you pork bun.  Everyone will assume it's a joke.  And it is a joke, it just isn't a lie.

Problem is, I'm smitten.  Luckily, I have to wait at least another month or two before I can finish my legs, and if I'm still smitten in a few months then there's a hope that it is only a sort of terrible idea.

Oh, and if we haven't met: hi.  This is what I look like.

Oh dear.

Because as soon as I start to think of it, I can't let it go.  Because this silly tattoo is what I have for my "Chinese heritage," whatever that means.  Because I don't know anything besides thank you (Cantonese, for an item), thank you (Cantonese, for a service), thank you (Mandarin), the numbers one through ten (in Cantonese), and three kinds of dim sum.  In context, I can read which character is North, South, East, West, or middle, but unless they were on a mah jong tile I'd never recognize them.  Sometimes, when I've been playing for a while I remember how to read the numbers one through nine, but then I forget again.

I feel like I'm claiming something I have no right to.  And yet, I cling to it.  And I fear that part of my clinging has more to do with my own fetishization* of the exotic, my own desire to be different, the fifteen year old I still am, sometimes, trying to be noticed.  And I can hide behind the truth of my mother, but sometimes it feels like an excuse.  I don't want to be closer to my mother.  I don't really care where she comes from.  I have no love for my childhood.  But I can say HEY LOOK CHINESE MOTHER and I get a free pass.

So, yeah, the tattoo makes fun of people who get tattoos in other languages for dubious reasons and with hilarious results.  It also makes fun of me, and my own dubious attachment.  It is, in all sincerity, a piece of my childhood.  I don't really like pork buns much these days, but I order them religiously anyway.  And every time I do I think about tapping on the table (a habit of my mother's that I didn't notice until my dad pointed it out at an Italian restaurant) but I never have the courage.

And, you see?  Now I'm taking this silly idea seriously.

*Dear Firefox, also a word.

I am thinking about the third person

Not for the current piece, definitely not!  (Sometimes I forget how much I love exclamation points.  So deliciously extravagant.)

But if I can write memoir in the second person, I don't see why I can't do it in the third.  I don't know if there's a good reason to do this, if anything I've been starting—or trying—or not even realizing I wanted—to say, would actually be improved by moving it to the third person.  But it seems worth considering.

Also, since I'm stalling a bit on HT(wt)*, this is what I spend my time thinking about.

Also, I want to make a shirt with the Chinese characters for thank you BBQ pork bun.  I'm not sure if I'm dedicated enough to my irony to get it tattooed, although the thought did occur to me.  Given the number of tattoos that the owners think say samurai but actually say hemorrhoid, I think it would be funny to have one that is actually intended to say something nonsensical.  Also, the first words I ever learned in Cantonese.  (To be followed by pork dumpling, shrimp dumpling, two more kinds of thank you, and the numbers one through ten.  Yeah, I suck at being Chinese.)

Y'all really gotta stop me from getting that one.  Yikes.

*Heat Transfer (working title)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

How it's going to go, I think

So the plan is to take the planetary bodies bit from, like, five posts ago, and re-do the metaphor (probably tides, since, duh) and make it the ending of that thing I'm writing.  So, like the last one, the plot is mostly "this is how things were, this is how things are now," except instead of being about the sadness between the two, it's about the potential for something different.  So it starts with a beach in San Diego, jumps back to me and Mike, probably jumps around a bit in the times of me & Mike, and then ends back in San Diego, with the thing about the ache of want and the possibility of change.  And an apology, I think.  Something like
I want to apologize. But I can’t apologize for one thing without apologizing for everything. And if I apologize for everything then I have taken everything.  I want to give him my sorrow, but I want to give him his life—his life—not mine.
Another thought is to add planets to the beginning with the ocean, or at least the moon, since it's the gravitational pull between planetary bodies that makes the tides, so I don't have to change the metaphor at the end.  Also then, can take the afternoon onward, having dinner with my father and his new wife (a new and good change that I don't know very well) and end by being at night talking about planets and want and change.

And as I re-read that, I think, no.  Nevermind.  I'll work something else out.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

more bits to fit together

We met the summer after I graduated from college, when I moved in with my aunt and uncle for a year before applying to grad school, which turned into six years before applying to grad school. He was the first person I met in Berkeley. He smiled and told me I was overqualified, but would give my resume to the owner. I got the job.

We started dating a year later, the same year that my parents separated, one high school friend went blind, and another high school friend’s brother shot and killed himself. I was 22 years old; Mike was 21. We had sex on the Fourth of July. It was his first time.


We broke up in November, except we didn’t. And then we broke up in June, and we did.


I have journal entries that say things like Mike will be home soon, and when I wrote them, the phrase was fraught with meaning, it couldn’t be said without a hitch in the heartbeat. Mike will be home soon. We yearned for each other, once.

I'm still waiting to figure out what the Mike bits have to do with the beach bits.  But they do, I'm sure of it.

Have I mentioned that I'm in love with Jason Segal?

I remembered Ploughshares, partly because my professors at Goucher were guest editors while I was in school, and I remembered that it seemed like a Pretty Big Deal kind of journal.  I thought I was being ambitious-ish by trying there first.  And this submission, which is so starkly in the forefront of my mind, is becoming unpleasantly distracting, so I thought that I'd treat submitting the way I do online dating, and get some more work out.  This means that I need more work, so I am looking at polishing older pieces, like How To Fight With Your Mother or maybe even the sestinas (dear Firefox, sestina is a real word).  And I need places to send them to, so I am looking up other journals and I find a "Top 50 Literary Magazines" list and Ploughshares is number 2, below The New Yorker.  And now I'm feeling like I just asked Jason Segal to go out with me and what the hell was I thinking?  And how can I possibly do it again?

more notes from Heat Transfer

(This is going to be another one of those add-to-the-post-as-I-go-along, rather than starting-a-new-entry-each-time kind of things.)


The first thing we bought when we arrived in Iowa was a bed. I say “we” but really it was Mike who bought the bed because the bank account that I’d blithely forgotten to check had been empty, more than empty, since Nebraska. We spent our first night in our new apartment sweating on a blanket on the floor.

Iowa in August was thick and heavy, swollen and green. We tried to go out, to explore our new city, but the air pushed us down and the heat took our breath away. Everything but us was flourishing, growing vigorously, while we returned, defeated, to our window air conditioning unit.

It was Mike’s first move away from California. It was my second. And that difference was enough to make me feel experienced, worldly. As if having done it once before meant that I knew what I was doing. He complained about the humidity. I said I told you so.


I am a scavenger.  I make things out of bits and pieces of other things.  I look back through my life and think, what can I turn this into?  I get to a point in a story where I am walking into the water in San Diego, and I think, hey didn't I write a description of this already? Some blog searching, some copy pasting, and I have another few paragraphs of this story.  (See this bit.)

That was one of the hardest things about the Commie Pinko rules: I couldn't scavenge for previous works to put in the story, which is hard because the story is previous works.  Everything I make is the same thing, it's just that the pieces don't all connect just yet.  The darkroom story ended up being the Sheila story, or rather it was the pieces that fit around the Sheila story.  (And as soon as it was no longer a Commie Pinko story, I went and copy pasted those bits in.  The story is much improved with them there.)  There are still pieces of the Sheila story sitting in my google docs, waiting for something else to come along to connect to.

I still don't know what I'm doing.  Obviously, I am talking about place, and home, and Iowa and California.  I thought, for a minute, that this might be about my grandmother.  That would make  sense.  But it just isn't true.

This might be an apology to Mike.  If Sheila gets a love letter, I think that Mike gets an apology.  I don't know how, yet, but I think that's what I want.  I think.  We'll see.

Monday, June 11, 2012

If you would like to cross your fingers with me for the next three to five months

It's been a very long time. 

In other news, I keep going back to this, and also the toaster, although I don't know anything yet.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Things I am talking about, things I am not.

1.  The world is now a little more surreal.  A Chicago grocery store installed a mural of a grocery store in an EL tunnel.  And what really puts it over the top?  It is a grocery store.  Scan the bar codes into your iPhone or Android app, and they'll be delivered to your door.  Who needs art when there's life?  Or a life-sized mural of life?

davidwilson1949 on flickr

2.  Thursday, already.  I shouldn't be disappointed.  But I can already feel Monday looming.  Also, I really need to take care of my bills for the month. 

3.  My grandmother is dying.  Like, no one is sure, but 6 months is sounding optimistic.  I wish that someone would just say it without the frills, the soft words.  And then I wish that someone would tell me what to do.

4.  I have a tattoo appointment for the 22nd.  I want to get through the text and the outline all at once, and come back for the coloring.  Kris is estimating 2-3 hours for the first, and 1-2 hours for the second.  I can't wait.

5.  I am taking the advanced rhythm class as a lead this month.  Or, I might take it as a lead for the first two weeks, and switch for the next, since the class seems to only introduce one new step per dance per month.  I still can't talk and dance at the same time.

6.  Salsa: it's like a foreign language where I've got the accent down but I only know how to say how are you and where is the bathroom?  And then people start talking to me like I know how to respond and it all goes embarrassingly wrong.