Saturday, July 05, 2003


Too bad that N!xau, the bushman starring in "The Gods Must Be Crazy" has just passed away recently. I love that movie and I love his great performances.

Thursday, July 03, 2003

Road Trip

Damn it feels good to be a gangsta... I mean home. After 1300 miles, I'm finally back home in good old MN. So much open space here compared to Manhattan. Since I have traveled such a long distance, it's rather unsurprising that I encountered a few interesting things along the way:

Encounter #1

I was in a bathroom stall at a rest area minding my own business when I heard someone bursting into the stall next to mine. I noticed that the man next door had dropped his shirt on the floor. Part of the dark brown shirt had actually slid into my stall. Since I was occupied at the moment, I just ignored it. Then I heard an old man's agitated voice radiating out of the next stall: "God damn it, Fritz, I shit my pants!!" Before I had fully grasped the gravity of the situation (not for me of course), I heard more swearing: "I got shit on my shirt too! I didn't even have the fucking time to take it off, Fritz!!" I guess he must have tucked his shirt in like most old people I see. I wasn't really shocked to hear an old man crapped his pants. What was most striking to me was the fact that an old man outside of my circle of relatives used such colorful language in public. I don't think I've ever heard an old person swear in public before, which seems odd to me now, given the myriad reasons they have for being angry, such as expensive medication, aching joints, spotty memory, incontinence, just to name a few.

As I walked toward my car pondering the cruelties of old age, I came across another unusual sight:

Encounter #2

In the parking lot I noticed a bright yellow Beetle pulling up to a parking spot. Out came an old lady--she must have been at least 70 years old--wearing a bright yellow, short-sleeved shirt. She seemed to define "young at heart." I looked into the car and saw her husband waiting contently inside. I wish I can be as lucky as that old man, I thought. I want to find a girl that will be as happy with her appearances and as confident in her stylishness as that old lady was when she arrives at that age.

Later, while I was driving through yet more anonymous midwestern terrain I passed

Encounter #3

On the left lane cruised a large, white American-made sedan (I can't recall the make and model now). The car had a vanity plate with the letters "AAAAA" on it. There was also an american flag etched on the upper left corner of the plate with a small caption underneath that said, "USA" or something else that seemed very patriotic. As I pulled up next to the car, I expected to see the stereotypical midwesterner of the Scandanavian stock. You know, a white person with blonde hair and blue eyes (although I didn't expect to be able to tell from my car going at 80 miles an hour). Imagine my surprise to see a Mid-eastern-looking man with a white kaffiyeh(?) on his head and a full beard. I don't know if this man has always displayed his patriotism so prominently, although the license plate itself looked brand spanking new, with the flag gleaming under the afternoon sun.

This chance encounter reminds me of all the Pakistani-owned deli's in my old neighborhood in NYC that had "God Bless America" signs posted in the front door. Because I moved to NYC more than a year after 9/11, I don't know if the signs were put up before or after 9/11. However, I can imagine myself feeling vulnerable enough to make an effort to "prove" my loyalty and patriotism if I were a Muslim living in this country in the aftermath of 9/11. Hell, I don't even need to be an actual Muslim to feel insecure. I just need to "look" Arab to begin feeling uncomfortable living in certain parts of the country.

As a member of a racial/ethnic group that makes up a mere 3% of the US population, and after reading accounts of the WW II internment of Japanese-Americans, I am very sympathetic toward all those law-abiding, hard-working immigrants that are caught in the whole 9/11 backlash just because of the way they look. I think it's tragic that a few fanatics are able to make life difficult and even dangerous for hundreds of thousands of people living in what has to be the most racially diverse country in the world. At the same time, I am ever wary of the possibility that we Asian-Americans can be in a similar plight. A few years ago, some illegal election campaign contributions made by a few unscrupulous Chinese-American businessmen led to widespread suspicions and, in some cases, rejections of donations from Asian Americans. Then came the Wen Ho Lee case that generated numerous headlines in the media screaming about the potential security risks of employing scientists of Chinese descent in national laboratories (in the end, Lee pleaded guilty to one count of mishandling classified data). Man, I can't imagine how fucked we would be if there's ever a military conflict between the US and China. You don't even have to be of Chinese descent to be worried about your safety. You just need to look like a Chinaman.

Monday, June 30, 2003

I'm Alive...

Barely, after spending the whole weekend moving, settling in and doing laundry. I still have a lot of unpacking to do and smelly clothes to wash, but I don't think I will get too much done this weekend since I will be driving my car back to MN starting tomorrow.

Moving wasn't as bad as I had expected because I hired a moving company on the recommendation of a coworker. The two guys were supposed to be at my old apt at 7 am on Saturday, but arrived late because they didn't write down my address correctly and got lost on the way. It took them about 45 minutes to load everything that I packed on to their huge truck and off we went. I rode shotgun in the front of the truck with the two movers.

Since we had a long way ahead of us towards Manhattan, I started chatting with them. They were both Chinese. The manager looked like he was between 35 to 40 years old and moved to here from Fujian in '89. His helper was probably in his late twenties, was originally from Liaoning and came in '98. They asked when I came here, where I was moving to and what I'm doing now. When I told them that I've been living in the States for 13 years, the Liaoning guy laughed and said, "You are half an ABC [American-Born Chinese] then." Then I started telling them about my job. The manager sighed and said, "Life is different when you have an education. You have a much easier job than us." I replied, "Don't worry, your kids will be just like me." He laughed and said, "My kids are still in diapers!" At one point, the helper said, "Each generation can't chi ku as the previous generation before." Now, Chi ku can be translated literally as "eat bitterness," which means, to endure hardship. I replied, "It's because each generation is living better than the one before." He nodded in agreement.

On the way to Manhattan, we had to make a stop to pick up the manager's friend, who makes furniture, and his huge cabinet. After they moved the cabinet into the truck, the manager and his friend hopped in the front. I was a bit concerned because I didn't know how all four of us would fit in the front. Then I saw the helper guy climb into the back of the truck and closed the door. I was shocked. "Isn't it really dangerous for him to be sitting in the back?" I asked the manager. He laughed and said, "Don't worry about it, we've done that before, it's not dangerous at all." Then he started telling me about how they were helping some people moving to Syracuse the night before and didn't get back to the city until 3 am. Because my move was at 7 am, he just slept in the front seat while the helper slept in the back.

Just after we got off the Queensboro bridge and into Manhattan, the manager's friend told him to change a couple of lanes to the right. The police routinely stops trucks coming off the bridge to check for bombs, he explained, as we passed a U-Haul stopped on the left side of the road being inspected by two cops. Because we were all the way on the right, the cops couldn't pull us over as easily.

When the manager came into my apartment and saw the wall that we had built to carve out a bedroom, he was pretty surprised and asked, "Is this wall legal? Did your landlord actually allow you to build this wall?" While I assured him that everything was ok, I thought it was pretty amusing that he wasn't at all concerned about driving a truck on the highway with someone else in the back sitting on nothing more than a few dirty blankets, and yet he questioned the legality of a wall in the living room.

The next hour or so consisted of me telling the movers where to place everything in the apartment. It was pretty effortless on my part.

After the moving was done, I had to ask the movers to drive me to an ATM to get some cash so I could pay them. Originally, they said I wouldn't need to tip them because they had somehow banged a hole in the headboard of my bed. I gave them $30 in tips anyways because 1.) They did a very good job overall; 2.) I was glad I didn't have to move anything because I was running on 9 hours of sleep over the two days preceding the move; 3.) the helper guy really reminded me of my er jiu (second uncle on my mother's side), who also talks kind of slow, has similar mannerisms, and is still recovering from a broken leg suffered in an accident while doing some random construction job. (When I was still in China, Er Jiu always lovingly referred to me as da er gua, or big ears, because, apparently, I had really big ears for a kid my age); 4.) They only charged $170 for the job, as opposed to the market price of $400; and 5.) They needed $30 much more than me.