Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Friday, December 01, 2006
Asian American 98 teaching assistant. Theatre Rice comedy troupe. Poetry for the People student teacher poet. Theatre Rice course coordinator. Regret co-director. Soulstice Art Gallery co-curator. Asian Pacific American Issues Conference co-coordinator. War on 54 concert organizer. Til Our Chests Burn concert organizer. A+ on my paper on Slavoj Zizek, Jean Baudrillard, 9/11, and the War in Iraq.
looking at this now is like finding old clothes that are now too tight (did i really used to wear this?) i need to tear them up and sow it together into something that makes sense. all of that is another life now, back in the day when we were talking about becoming rock stars. i got to pull an Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and leap through my mind and rescue memories before they fade away. hope it's not too dusty in there.
Thursday, November 30, 2006
i graduate from college the fall of 2004. i move back into my father's house in sherman oaks, los angeles, and i start a small but exciting internship at a big architecture firm. i spend my days making photocopies and my nights playing playstation 2. i live rent free and i put all my income into savings for my own house in the suburbs. i have nothing to worry about so i gain weight. one night i try to finally start working on my book and i realize that i had forgotten how to write. i learn that safety inhibits creativity and that the most daring things only come out of a fear of dying. i pack my bags to travel the world for a year and i learn all sorts of amzing things that i forget within 2 months of returning home. i decide to go to an architecture graduate school that no one has ever heard of. i graduate. i become an architect at 30. i'm bored so i get married. my wife and i move into our own house in san diego. we have a daughter. i forget all my worries and i become all my daughter's worries. i live my life renovating homes and designing parks. i die at 56 by a heart attack.
i graduate from college the fall of 2004 and i move into an apartment in the east bay with two college friends. we're all unemployed. we spend the day looking for jobs and the night painting, writing, and reading poetry. our apartment is an artistic mess. we complete a short film every two months. one of my roommates finishes his play and spends his time to directing it in san francisco. we get invovled in the asian american artistic movement in the bay area. i find a job as a high school teacher. i also volunteer at a city planner's office. i go to film school in new york. i use the resources to make a feature film and i shop it around film festivals. it doesn't work out. i decide to risk it all to make another film. i break even when a distributor buys the rights to release the film. i make more movies but the love becomes a job and i lose the passion for it. i live in a vineyard in the south of france. i marry once but she leaves me. we have no children. when i retire i spend my days swimming in the mediterranean sea, hiding my tears below sea level. i drown at the age of 72.
i graduate from college the fall of 2004. i marry early and we settle in san francisco, where we struggle financially together. my internship at an architecture firm doesn't pay enough so i take a night shift as a security guard at the mall. i have no time for writing. i have no time on my own. i hate my job. she gets pregnant. i leave her one night and i move somewhere far away. she has a daughter named emily who never meets her daddy. i move to hong kong and i feel more lost than ever. i teach english at a chinese school. i visit all the places of my childhood. i write to my ex-wife often, begging forgiveness, but she won't see me. i return to america but i can't stand to write anymore. it hurts too much to pick up a pen. i decide that i want to be a doctor. i work the night shift as a volunteer at the local hospital. i go to med school at the age of thirty three. i become a doctor at thirty eight. i open a practice in chicago. i adopt a daughter. i raise her to be a poet and an activist because i didn't dare be one. i am dreaming of emily when i die in my sleep at the age of 64.
so here's what happened:
i graduate from college the fall of 2004. i am lost. i linger in California for a couple months, feeling like something is missing. i decide to see the world. i visit Vietnam. i write poems. when i pass by Hong Kong i interview for a job in an architecture company. i am offered a job. my desk faces a skyscraper with a swimming pool. at 4 pm my colleagues gather around my desk to watch the girls sunbathe. i travel Asia. i design skyscrapers for people i will never meet. i am the youngest guy at every meeting. i learn how to yell at people on the phone. i am at the office until 2 in the morning. my team and i win awards. i dance it off. i write love letters that i never send. i go to the movies to understand what it is that i am missing. i buy new shoes. maybe what i am looking for i will never find. i leave my job. i come back to California. i am 24 when i see you again.
to be continued.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Monday, November 27, 2006
You will be born from a dream that is born from another dream.
You will be paper, and you will be ink. You will be a folded airplane, a crumpled note, a scissor cut tree. You will be ballpoint scribbles, riffs of lines, curved scrawls. You will not speak. You will be rhythm. You will be what pulled my pen across this page, what colored the b-flat blue, what made this second stop on a dime.
And I will be ( )
There is a room made out of paper, made out of ink. And somewhere else, there is a planet, a solar system, a forest, just waiting to be drawn, just waiting to be folded into place.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
maybe, storyboards for a short film. it's about a cloud who sprouts legs and moves to new york to be a fashion model. the cloud becomes a "muse," picks up an austrian accent, and is soon the darling of the runway. the cloud is on the cover of "vogue," catfights with kate moss, parties with "panic at the disco," and buys a dozen baby welsh corgies. soon all the other clouds start wearing mini-skirts too. weather reports start predicting mascara rain all day long.
Friday, November 10, 2006
Here’s a mixtape for you, a collection of invisible cities. It begins with a ride across downtown in Futureshock’s “Late at Night” and it ends on an airplane, window seat, looking out at a developing world in Zero 7 and Jose Gonzalez’s “Futures.”
Maybe, one day, we'll live in one of these:
Futureshock – Late at Night (Dir: Ne-O)
Ebb – I’m All Made Out of Music (Dir: Tiny Tim)
Stereogram – Walkie Talkie Man (Dir: Michel Gondry)
Ken Ishii – Visionary World (Dir: Ne-O)
Zero 7 + Jose Gonzalez – Futures (Dir: Robert Seidel)
can anyone recommend anymore urban discoscapes?
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Banh Khoai (Hue Pancake)
1 cup rice flour
1-1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon superfine sugar
2 tablespoons cooking oil
4 ounces peeled shrimp (small)
3 strips of thinly sliced cooked lean pork or bacon
1/2 cup finely sliced straw mushrooms
1/2 cup bean sprouts
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup fragrant leaves (basil, cilantro and mint)
2 medium starfruit, sliced
1 cup fresh mint leaves
1 cup peanut-based sauce
Blend rice flour with water, eggs, salt and sugar, leave to rest for 10 minutes, then strain.
Add one tablespoon of oil to the flying pan, and swirl it around. Turn heat on high. Ladle the rice flour mix into the hot pan, swirl it around quickly, then add the mung beans and mushrooms. Cook covered for 1 minute. Remove the lid. Add the shrimp, pork, bean sprouts and spring onions. Cook uncovered until the pancake is golden brown and crispy.
Serve with fragrant herbs, lettuce and sauce dip.
(I can't seem to find the sauce recipe for that Peanut based sauce they serve with Banh Khoai in Hue... does anyone know it's secret?)
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Worldchanging is putting out an exciting solution/innovation driven book about ways to build a better future, from the massive changes, like eradicating poverty and building greener cities, to the more minute, like how a cell phone or a bicycle can be re-imagined for the better.
But tomorrow, they will try to hack the publishing system. Check it out, and maybe pick a copy up too on Amazon, at 11:11 am, PST?
PS: I've just joined the Worldchanging team as one of their California writers. Will be focusing on sustainable design/mobility and exciting conscious film/media projects. Will put up some articles soon!
Monday, October 30, 2006
My uncle is having a smoke outside, his third cigar of the evening, he goes through them swiftly, like flipped pages in a magazine. He’s watching the sky. We talk about Vietnam. He hasn’t gone back since he left. Never set foot in Hue, can’t imagine ever seeing Hanoi. But his daughters talk about going. Maybe one day he will go back because of them. His dog, Akai, is nervously running around the backyard. I take a photo of Akai with a flash and it doesn’t scare her.
I meet my cousins for the first time, and we kiss each others’ cheeks. I’ve been wondering when I’d meet them since I was 12. Now they’re that age, and I’m the one who’s grown-up. They think that I look like a bad guy. I think I should have shaved. We introduce ourselves by drawing portraits of each other. I carry one of them on my shoulders, the other in my hand. It’s like we’re pretending to be a tree, I think.
One of them steals my wallet. It takes me a whole morning to get it back. My uncle tells me to make sure they didn’t steal anything else. I think, “maybe they stole my heart.” But I keep it to myself. It’s sort of cheesy.
Moonlight in the midst of the Mission, Vinh and I lost at poker so we throw on a scarf of cigarette smoke and head up onto a rooftop. From up here, we’re as tall as the streetlamps. I miss San Francisco, I think, especially on nights like this, the streets are quiet, and when we toss our cigarette butts into the air they look a little like shooting stars. It’s been too long.
I ask Jimmy if he’d like to bike riding at 2 in the morning. After an episode of Ali G, he replies. Him and Ben took off one night on bicycles and have ended up all the way in Hanoi.
I think, maybe someone needs to invent a camera that can take photographs of what we dream about, but maybe it’s better to just make it happen. Ok, that’s pretty cheesy too.
Monday, October 16, 2006
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
i like seeing cities slip behind clouds like bed covers, i like reading the shore jag and the rivers bend like graffiti lines, and when i’m so high up, i like staring at the still ocean, trace its waves like the grooves of a 12" vinyl record, and wonder if this record is what's keeping the world spinning.
i live in california again after a year in hong kong. hong kong was beautiful, and coming home was the hardest and the easiest thing to do. i loved my job out there, loved the feeling of building something, and i was part of some great teams on some very cool projects.
but sometimes you have to choose between the form and the formless, between what you can see and what you can’t. when i'm in a situation like that, i've learned to go where i can’t see and trust what i don’t yet know. i don't like to be vague: but that’s why i came back. i was pulled really, but i don’t know by what yet.
not many people know this about me: i studied architecture and city planning at uc berkeley. maybe i was a bit of an outsider in the program (i only have a handful of close friends in the department). i loved architecture academically (ohh... the sketching, the all-nighters, the theory, the flame throwers...), but what i loved in life pulled me towards organizations and student groups like APASD, Theatre Rice, Poetry for the People, Southeast Asian Student Coalition, Students for Hip Hop... i wasn’t joining all the clubs to fill a resume or be mister popular or anything like that, it’s just that in order to accomplish the things i really believed i needed to immerse myself in the people from those student groups, learn and grow with them, and maybe even build something together.
it was a gut instinct, and i found families there, and i am very thankful to all of them. thank you for laughing with me, for trusting and holding me accountable, for listening, for dancing and freestyling and daring me, for staying up all night with me if i needed someone there. really, thank you, whatever i do in this life i don’t want to let you down. some of the people i’m thinking about, i probably might not ever see again, and i’m not trying to be deep or anything, but i guess that’s life, you were there for me and i was there for you for that key moment, and that was that. our back was got and that’s all we need to know.
for the next month or so, we’ll do something different here on this blog. there's going to be a small look-back at some of the work i was part of from 2001 – 2006 (mostly arch/design/film.) it’s just to help me get things together before i begin a new life cycle (grad school in film or architecture next year.) it begins at 2001, when i first started doing theatre and architecture in the Bay Area (really, at the pushing of jimmy and kathy respectively), and it ends at 2006, after a year of experimenting and learning in hong kong.
i sometimes believe that in the things i do, the opposite can also true. any object/building/place has the potential to be something else. break it, stretch it, bend it, snap it, glue it. we just have to find the potential, dig for the metaphor, and keep moving.
Monday, September 18, 2006
Thursday, August 03, 2006
Sure, let’s talk about dreams.
Books hanging from metal cages, gliding at the slightest movement, like hanging grapes. the room seemed like a big pomegranate, like a fruit containing a hundred seeds.
An igloo shaped room, with compartmentalized shelves, wood veneer and laminate, and dusty records neatly shelved.
A coffee shop with soft walls, made out of paper, curved and free flowing, temporary room. it sits on top of a cliff by the beach, we all had coffee there, all five of us (even though marl + bern have never met), plus freda, one door leads to the ocean (clashing waves, it’s high tide), the other opens into a smoky alleyway in wanchai, caged chickens and all.
You’ve all gone home and i’m sitting alone in our time machine. I had to sleep outside on the balcony because I didn’t want to clean up my room. I guess the next time we see each other, we’ll build an awesomer time machine. No flux capacitor this time, just wee cupcake-shaped chairs to sit on.
5. we’re dancing electronica at yumla, the sun starts to break, and we ride a taxi out to a beach I went to when I was a kid, the beach has giant statues of gods, and there’s a young fellow sitting on the shore by himself, looking like he’s about to cry. cops try to stop us, but they can’t. no one can.
4. we’re in Lamma island, chilling. we see four giant spiders, each twice the size of my fist, floating above us.
3. we’re riding taxi back from central, and I think James is talking about this place being a transient city. a girl nods in agreement. me, i try to tell the driver something in Chinese but it comes out in French.
2. I’m in Macau, and the whole city seems to be turned inside-out. There are construction cranes everywhere. My boss tells me that I can’t escape this, that no matter where I am, my future will be tied into China. I don’t know what to say.
1. we’re watching a Japanese movie called Tony Takitani, based on a short story by Haruki Murakmi. We found it at this recently discovered arthouse bootleg dvd store. The movie is very startling, very beautiful, but also very simple. I like these minimal movies with a quiet rhythm. they are refreshing, especially after work. You forget where you are. It’s like taking a slow boat out into the water.
Friday, July 14, 2006
the night is sometimes a coat hanger, a television left on, and maybe an I-Pod running out of batteries, whatever it is, the night’s not the sky or the passage of time or even boat lights seen from balconies, it’s solid, you can touch it, hold it, and wrap a blanket around it. you can bbq chicken wings and steaks for it, and then wipe sweat off its eyelid. the night will also undress you, whether you like it or not. you can kiss its earlobe, but it won’t listen. that I-Pod will still run out of batteries, and it won’t matter so much anymore.
and me, i’m not so good at the things i think i’m good at, and i’m not quite as bad at the things i don’t particularly enjoy. i’m at the beach at sunrise and two officers are wondering how i got there, i don’t know, it’s july, isn’t it? i don’t have much of a routine this time of year, but i guess i was laughing with my eyes closed and somehow ended up here, want to sing bob marley together?
it’s july, and i scoop some sea water into my mouth, and it tastes like sweat, with tiny little crabs juggling in it. i can’t swim so well, but last night we were underwater, in a bar listening to electronica, head-bobbing, bones popping, eyes wide shut the whole time, and by morning we were washed up on shore on some beach, it’s no metaphor, we passed the time with sand and sweat all around us, with the morning pushing us at our necks, whispering, move, move, want to race to the other side?
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
8:45 am – stumble out of bed, forget to shave, stuff contact lenses in, throw on t-shirt and blazer, soy milk and honey nut brunches of oats for breakfast, rush out the door.
9:15 am – stop by starbucks. buy banana chocolate muffin.
9:25 am – clock in at work. boss-uncle-g stops by my desk, pulls me into a design discussion about project ns – a competition for an I.T. park somewhere in China. present are: boss-uncle-g and teammates ja and vp. aerial photographs (i found them via google earth while listening to the mission impossible soundtrack) are shown and marked-up in white out. we talk about simplifying things. i think about an einstein quote “things should be as simple as possible, but no simpler” and wonder about how to get there. maybe it’s about forgetting all about trying to impress, and just doing it for ourselves.
10:15 am – i decide to spend the next few hours on project mc – a residential tower somewhere in china. boss-bertbert stops by my desk and tells me that i’ll be helping with “contract administration” soon. i wonder what “contract administration” means.
11 am – i e-mail some engineers about suggested changes to a project’s structural grid. i wonder how i'd feel if some 23 year old constantly gave me extra work?
12:00 pm – the client wants to see furniture in the building plans. i draw furniture. all the furniture. in all 45 floors.
1 pm – lunch time. beef melt sandwich, and then a haircut at a spot where you don't have to say anything, they just know what you want. i think the haircut looks cool, but 10 minutes i think it looks a little silly.
2:00 pm – i draw more furniture.
3:30 pm – i get pulled into a design discussion with boss-uncle-g and boss-uncle-g’s boss. i’m surprised he’s not yelling at us. boss-uncle-g’s boss’s boss, the big boss, drops by. i’m surprised he’s not yelling at us. hey, we're cool.
4:30 pm – i do some sketches.
5:00 pm – cigarette break with vp, who just joined the team, so he has fresh eyes. we talk about the façade and bounce off each other a lot, we scatter ideas around like cigarette ash, i tell him i like his style, with this project, we just gotta go where the feeling is good.
5:30 pm – meet up with team for another design discussion. i get called out on the words i use to explain architecture. too vague, and too many metaphors. a bit like this blog.
7:00 pm – dinner at a taiwanese restaurant that’s “elfish forest” themed. there's giant mushrooms, fake trees, and cute little elves everywhere, the food's nice too i had salty fish and minced pork, with a big thick taro milk shake.
8:30 pm – start to do some 3D drawings for project ns.
9:30 pm – avoid boss-bertbert outside the bathroom, don’t want to be guilt tripped about not drawing furniture.
10:00 pm – boss is delighted by some of project ns drawings. i then show him some other ones and he thinks they're so-so, but me, i like the bad drawings more than the nice ones, they're messy, struggling, trying to be something.
11:00 pm - computer crashes. it's a sign.
11:15 pm - boss brings big boss over to my desk to show some drawings. i tell him i can't, that my computer bugged out. i pack my things, throw on my jacket, and put my headphones on. it's time to head home.
Monday, June 05, 2006
i watched a typhoon walk towards me, smiling, with a djarum in its mouth. the weather here in hong kong is a cocky bastard, a humidity with sweaty arm pits, a rain that moves like a prize fighter, like a wrestler, pulling at your ankles, holstering you upside down. it was a mistake to wear my new shoes to work.
for a year, perhaps, if this cubicle doesn't get to me sooner. i'm an architecture assistant, worker number 272, on floor 22, of number 213 queen's road east street. and i work overtime. and the best part about work is the leaving, the closing of the elevator doors, squeezing between the metal security gate into a closed-up fish market, where families sit outside just to sit outside.or maybe because their apartments are cramped, and they got no place else to go.
i ran into wing on the subway yesterday. i missed my train to causeway bay so i caught the later one, turned several wrong corners towards several wrong exits, paused to look at a map to get my bearings, made a complete 180, rushed to a random escalator and suddenly i hear "BRUCE!!!!!"
wing is getting off the escalator as i am getting on, so we chat in the middle a crowd rushing in and out.
duuude. i just had dinner with mom, chiu chao (spelling?) food. dude i ate so much, a lot of taro, but you know you gotta have the taro. taro everywhere in hong kong.
i was an airplane pilot once, and i used to have iggy pop's "passenger" on repeat in my cockpit. one day i flew through an elephant shaped cloud and got a cherub's harp lodged into my propeller. i had to evacuate immediately so i tucked myself into a rubber duck hidden in the cargo bay and leapt off the plane, spinning at the speed of sound, singing but nothing coming out of my mouth. only when i plunged into the south china sea could i hear my own voice catch up with me, audible underwater, a bedtime song dancing through the teeth of a shark about to swallow me whole.
so i was feeling lonely, and i spent some extra hours at work to keep busy. a work friend scolds me:
"hurry up and learn Cantonese, man!"
i tell him i'm trying, and point to a piece of metal on a table.
"how do you say that in chinese?"
"we call that 'luie' (aluminum.) it should be easy for you to remember, we pronounce it the same say we pronounce 'girl' ... 'luie' (girl!)"
"mm, perfect, because they can both be so cool sometimes. "
"no. girls aren't cool. they're quite warm."
do you still want a cockroach tattoo? because today i saw a giant cockroach. an saw it too, and she got scared. brian played it cool.
so wonderful that you and my aunt fell in love. i only got to spend a night and a day with her in new york, so you probably know her better than i do by now!
new york felt like a kiss on the cheek at every street corner, man, it was love, sometimes strutting around feeling cocky sometimes walking at half-steps, feeling so small in face of it all. hearing about my aunt brings me back there, her living room, so warm and lush, the street she works on, snow white in the springtime, but a sly smell of pizza and honey roasted nuts.
that button room, maybe that's how i imagine your future home, and by then you're old, and tired of photographs, and you just keep buttons on you walls, and each button a story, a person you fell in love with on a subway ride somewhere, an eight year old who told you a secret in a garden while eating popcorn.
my architecture job here in hong kong is a fistfight, no gloves, just bare knuckles, and a lot of black eyes. a fleet of 100+ sailors, each divided into their own ship, tackling its own monster project, a stadium for the 2008 olympics, a mixed use neighborhood that will replace a historical district of central hong kong, a high-tech college in the country side of china. me, i'm in a small ship, just the 3 of us, so i get to do a lot of different things. like design a façade of louvers for a sports club by lunch, layout plans for a fine dining restaurant by dinner, and figure out where escalators go in a shopping mall during overtime… it's like learning the tango, the breakdance, and the shuffle at the time, three records playing at full volume all around you, and you're not wearing any pants.
but hey, it’s fucking fun.
the other day i walked into a small corner take-out restaurant and wondered if faye wong would pop up and sing hotel california. maybe i watch too many movies. head in the clouds, i'm gonna get hit by a car one day, i think.
today it was "sunflowers," set in inner mongolia, in what could be the biggest sunflower field in the world. after the film i sat down with the director and a few other audience members in a library and we talked about music and road trips
these days… i've been wondering about my future a lot, pick-pocketing my childhood for clues about what to do, two of my favorite people at work are a pair of pilipino architects i eat fried chicken and nuts with it every other week, they are in their forties, former punk rockers now domesticated and corporate. one likes to talk about pilipino poetry (the balagtasan), and his 8-year old who is writing a war novel. the other likes to talk about toy cars, and his father-in-law, who's in a hospital in the Philippines. i tell them that i like poems too, and that (trying to over-compensate for my age) i think death is a bit like going home, for the deceased, and the people who loved her.
they just nod, like they've heard it all before, and continue eating, one of them wonders out loud about the guitar, and mentions that he never had a talent for it. i think, i feel the same way about architecture, about writing. i take another bite and wonder about that city on the horizon, blinking at me, just a nap away, and about that record shop, just around the corner.
missed opportunities, the last trip i regret not taking was a flight to Vietnam last October to see my friend Lisa from Orange County, she was in town for a medical mission and invited me to come along with her, visit towns around Saigon, I said, yes, at first, but balked when I found out I was broke.
the first trip i regret not taking was a flight to Paris, Spring semester, Junior year. It was for a funeral, my mom and all her sisters (two from Torrance, two from NY, one already in Paris) and brothers (one Swiss, one Parisian) and extended family (almost all continents) went. I didn't because I had midterms.
when i drop out of something i absolutely feel like doing, i hear Jimmy in the back of my head whisper, "you'll regret it." the next morning, i see his face in the mirror, he's shaking his head: "i told you."
i'm adding Harbin to the list.
i hope your life feels like you've survived a 5-lane car wreck on the 405 freeway, shattered glass, twisted metal, and oil picking up the shine of the sun all along the tarnished concrete, and somewhere in the distance, you can hear a car radio rock an ibrahim ferrer song.
glad to hear that you're journeying to europe soon. i hope you get lost out there, and end up in some gas station in the countryside, drinking coffee out of styrofoam cup, you don't know where you are, but you're having a nice conversation with some stranger. one of those chance friendships that make this life worth living. just two people, in the middle of nowhere, both coming from somewhere far away, and going someplace else entirely.
and wear aviator sunglasses. you'll thank me later.
so i was watching a video today about toyo ito, and he was talking about how the space he is sometimes most interested in is the void between two words, and i thought, yes, mmm, i like that.
Vietnam and back, Hue and Saigon, caphe and vegetarian meals (why does fake meat taste better than real meat?), cemetery skipping, family seeing, laughing in elevators, talking Milan Kundera and Buddhism over dinner, my mom’s “they’re goose liver, we’re chopped liver” line, looking for an orphanage lost in a jungle, climbing down a mountain while telling children’s stories, watching the sky undress herself and her clothes turning into motorcycle headlights all around us, “it’s like they’re stars looking for some grounding,” smoking cheap cigarettes, praying, dreaming about turning into a tree, my grand cousin tells me love stories as another sings “one day my prince will come,” I speak in French with all of them, except the kids my age, we talk through cell phone videos (he plays me a breakdancing video), I fall in love with a fried pancake in Hue so I throw a chair onto a table and draw our faces onto the ceiling (the food is that good,) one day we’ll all come back, we’ll build homes too, homes all over the place.
A pair of photos, for now:
Marie-Paule asked me if I wanted to go with her to find her grandfather’s grave, I said sure, and we cross by foot a river, a train track, a sea of bicycles/motorcycles and rusted toppled gate into a cemetery. There are a dozen or so kids playing soccer between the tombstones. Some of them eye us curiously. She finds her grandfather’s grave, and is totally upset to see it overrun by weeds and snails. I help her clean it up. Two kids come by and offer us a brush. They halt the soccer game to watch us clean the grave. On our way back, we wonder if the kids are talking about us. “Of course,” Marie-Paule says. And we stop for cigarettes.
The fam, at our family home in Hue. Aunts and uncles and cousins from all over the world came out to Vietnam that week. The woman on the left is Bac Ma, my godmother in Paris, the one in the middle is Bac Ang, my mom’s oldest sister, from Torrance, and the woman with the back turned to us is Bac Mi, the cool aunt in New York. They’re checking out flying plants, and will soon tell us good stories.