Learning To Love You More




Assignment #14
Write your life story in less than a day.

New York, USA



Actually, when thinking about this assignment to write the story of my life, people have always asked me to write a story about my mom. But I guess that s where I came from physically and I think probably a lot of my character traits come from her so it s fitting to start with her. Isn t that unavoidable to deny as we grow older? My boyfriend tells me that I have a crazy bone and it came from my mother, whom he has never met, as her life was taken away 2 years ago, just a few days before my birthday.
I was conceived in Vietnam. In our culture, you are how old you are since your conception, not actual birthing. So today I am already considered to be 30 years old, having been born October 29, 1975. Conceived somewhere around Valentine s day is what makes us Scorpios so horny and romantic, so I hear. My astrological sign according to the Vietnamese horoscope is the cat and not the rabbit. It is the only differing sign from the Chinese horoscope. And I like it much better, as once I read this awful dated description of rabbits in a breakfast place in the Haight that said I was destined to be a secretary or manicurist. Rabbit, pah! My mother was 4 months pregnant with me when she brought my family over to the United States along with 2,000 other refugees who were placed in her responsibility. She told me that she couldn t let on that she was pregnant with me or else she could not have taken on this task entrusted to her by a group of nuns. After a perilous journey by sea and transferring several times in the South Pacific onto military planes where along the way she hid diamonds in her hair from pirates, kept together the 7 people in my immediate family and my uncle, and the thousands of others, with confidence and courage, we finally landed in California to our destination, Camp Pendleton.
From there, we flew to Portland, Oregon where our sponsors lived, (you have to be sponsored to come to America to ensure your financial security temporarily) and I was born in Multnomah County Hospital at 5:13am. My mother repeatedly, to the last days of her life, always said that I was a huge baby, white and round, like a ball of wet dough. But that all changed once my father taught us to play tennis one summer -hence, turning brown and slender. We were like the Asian Brady Bunch, camping, competing, and hanging out together in Portland. This was my scenario anyway, through my youthful television eyes. We always wanted to be on Family Feud, but never knew how to get on the show. Kinda that pathetic, oh, we could never be on television sentiment from a background that believes our only careers are medical or engineering, our hobbies tennis and stereotypically, piano lessons. I really wanted to take dance. Other than television shows as a summer past time, I can recall my brothers torturing snakes by ripping them apart with their bare hands, crucifying frogs and taunting kids all summer long, while teaching me to build rafts and casting them out into the lake behind our house, dropping me in the rivers to see if I could learn how to swim and bringing home toads by the barrelful to race in our astro-turfed out garage.
We were raised Catholic, as you can tell by the early nun and crucifixion references. My eldest brother loved Pontius Pilate, Ben Hur, all that MGM Sunday afternoon gladiator crap. Very misogynous, very glamourous to kill people and have power. Every evening after church, mom would give us Vietnamese lessons. You couldn t learn squat from the classes they offered after Sunday school, as the kids were too busy checking each other out like in day school, the usual distractions were present but somehow exaggerated it seemed, but less interesting. If we wrote out a sentence she dictated correctly, we were rewarded with sticks of gum or in nickels and dimes. She also paid me a nickel for every white hair I could tweeze out of her scalp, counting them when I was done as I would have to lay them out one by one on her lap of some dark contrasting polyster pant color. Kinda gross, but as a kid, it was easy drugstore money for candy. I can also recall some mischievous fun from playing darts in the garage and nailing the back of this chick s thigh that I thought was kind of a bully. A 250 lb. bully, that didn t feel the needle head penetrate her blobby leg, so I sat there laughing quietly to myself after an initial gasp of horror, thinking she would pound the shit out of me. I guess it was karma, when I got bb gunned in the thigh a week later by some neighborhood kids. I thought it was a bee, but my brothers reassured me that I had taken a bullet and that they would avenge me somehow. Some kid s garage burned that night. My brothers would do other nasty deeds like pay the neighborhood kids to eat poop for like a quarter, (and they would), wrestle naked or something, and watch the occasional porno while I hid in my room. I can t ever eat Soft Batch cookies again, cuz when I came out into the living room I caught a glimpse of a lady on the tele giving a BJ to a man by the train tracks as they all sat around watching in silence. It made me wanna gag. Ironically, I preferred to eat Three Musketeer bars by eating all the chocolate first then sucking on the nougat bar back and forth in highschool. That era was when vending machine food became my diet, along with microwave bagels. I d heat em up, then scorch my fingers and drop them into my uniform skirt, held up Mother of Guadalupe style. No miraculous rose bouquets emerged, just a hot sogg steamy bagel - instant lunch, voila.
Middle school was when we first moved to California. My dad got sick of the winters in Portland, so we headed south and stayed with this other huge family and the head of the Vietnamese Catholic community down South. He was great. My dad would have these poker parties every once in a while, and the head priest would wave his hands through the smoky air and summon the Holy Spirit to give him a full house. What a bad ass! We moved out of there soon after into a two bedroom apartment next to this amazing waterpark with bumper boats, batting cages, state of the art arcade, and mini golf. For some reason, a duplex apartment for a family of eight didn t seem so bad. Almost every night we were down there flipping the newest video games 360, Duck Hunt, Super Mario Bros., Ye-ar Kung Fu, Punch Out!, you name it. My brother got so bored he started rigging machines so we could get free credits and tokens out of them. He later got arrested for selling 5 tokens for a dollar to visitors when the machines only gave 4. He now has stocks in yahoo and sells atm and credit card machines, and probably gambles every season. He once took me to a casino where they serve pho on this Indian reservation out east, until one night a friend was shot in the parking lot. I guess it was payback time.
The Asian Brady s started to branch off in their own direction when the California 90210 popularity contests gained tow. Kids liked me, and they didn t really like my brothers. I started raving with one of my older brothers going to warehouse parties when I was 14, and I m not really sure what my sister ever did. My mother was really strict with her. She got her head dumped in the toilet a few times, head shaved, and well, now she s got an 80k job, 2 homes, a boob job, and dates a fag who does her interior decorating once in a while. Back to highschool.. the usual I guess, AP courses, straight A s, boys in bands, apple bongs. For some reason, my dad let me have the keys to his office and I had a party there once, labeling all the doors: Sex room , Trip out Room , Stoner room , Drinking games , etc. it was all good til my dad found a bottle of vodka in the bathroom underneath a sink full of puke. Fucking public school kids are lame asses. So, the clincher here is when my mom calls a family meeting . After months of living in our fat new house in the Jewish district in So Cal, finally getting my own dope room equipped with all this 80 s crap furniture: floor lamp, drop shadow shapes on my comforter and particle board desk, we drop into utter poverty, bankruptcy because my mom is ditching us. And on top of that, she s becoming a fugitive. On top of that she had an affair with our parish priest, a narcoleptic. So after showering us with weird recreational gifts like trampolines, treadmills, and lots of frozen meals and seeing her every once in a while with a shitload of drycleaning in her car, always hurrying off to the airport, she discloses that mommy has been caught bringing in refugees from Vietnam illegally. Things were fine for ages, until one client s son was jealous that they re father was being summoned over and not his wife or something. I was a crying blurry mess, and this is probably really incriminating so I ll just leave it at that. Anyway, she just said, here s the keys to my condo, take what you want, I have to leave the country basically, and will never see you again. Good thing she was a total control freak and made my dad sign all bank accounts and house property paperwork (of which we owned at least 5 at the time) in her name, so when she skipped bail that all went away. So my brothers, who watched a lot of LA law tried to console my mother and told her it was her first offense, she would only get a slap on the wrist or worst case scenario end up in some minimum security Martha Stewart-type compound. My sister on the other hand, being a big Danielle Steele fan worried my mother into being gang banged. And as I recall my mother said, at the age of 40, I don t think I could handle being raped in jail . Television and reality, who knows what goes on. I ve never been before so I just sat there and balled my eyes out. There was a lot of family structure that wittled away over the years. No more family dinners, no more family trips, or anything really. My dad got contracted to work abroad in New Orleans or Georgia to make bridges and sent us rent in plain white envelopes with letters of rules and regulations, and take care of each other while I m away type stuff from abroad. I got the shit kicked out of me once in a while, being left at home with my eldest mental brother during a pretty boring and hot summer.
I just kept on. Highschool became a place for me to find my bearings and I convinced the students to elect me to say prayers in the morning, and instead I just played records over the intercom. Losing out on 15 minutes of Calculus every morning made me fall a bit behind. But hell, I guess I didn t have to take it in college which ruled. College was spent my first year at a private Catholic college. Habit I guess, since I had been forced to attend my first 12 years of schooling. And then I thought, my mom isn t forcing me to go here anymore, so I headed up to the Bay Area after one summer of reclusiveness spent working and saving, running track and swimming on my lunch break. I worked in the school office with a bunch of tri-athletes, so we were a pretty good influence on each other. I drank a huge liter plastic tumbler of water in the morning, ate half a cantaloupe for lunch after working out in the sun, and cooked ginger chicken and a vegetable for 3 months straight. My dad stopped paying the phone bill that summer and thought we didn t need a phone anymore. At the end of summer I decided to go out again. I had a car I think so I went to shows. There was one show in the U-Haul parking lot, and I met someone that I kinda liked. On our first date, I came over and he was still painting his toe nails. I offered to help him finish. He then showed me a collection of his nail clippings that he kept in a jar. For some reason, at eighteen this was intriguing and not utterly disgusting. We went for falafels, he was vegan. I became vegan. Later that night we came back and listened to Brian Eno in bed. I kissed him and he said, I didn t even think this was a date. Awesome . Everyone considered him asexual until we dated I guess. Later I realized he was asexual. We toured with Crash Worship together. They were awesome. I was sprayed gold and came out carried on a fruit platter for a few shows. Got some ravers hooked on E, and did acid on this rock quarry we played at. Good times.
I finally got up to the Bay area for the fall. My first public education was amazing. I felt so at ease with the working class. Everyone down south was so wasp, trust fund surfer, that I didn t get them and they didn t get me. This was good. I dyed my hair pink and wore blue lingerie to school learning sign language, yoga, and studio art. I switched to art direction, got sexually harassed by this Japanese instructor that gives tenures and scholarships, then graduated top of my class. I really quit school early, because I thought my last semester and GE classes were a waste of time and money. But my credits for asl, etc counted for something. I worked for the Asian Film Festival not having a clue as to what Guest Services did, stayed up for hours trying to organize itineraries, eventually having a nervous breakdown because I never got the interns I was promised and was completely overworked, but then my boss invited me to Hong Kong to the HK film festival for all my hardwork and it payed off big time. I had been obsessed with Wong Kar Wai and Chris Marker s San Soleil so I decided to book the trip and bounce over to live in Japan for a while. I met Chris Doyle my first night in town, (the DP for most of Wong Kar Wai s films), some friends through work took us to the Chung King Mansion for curry, the gay film directors took us to after hour clubs, I did a hit of acid the last night and flew out on Japan Airlines. The best flight I ve had excluding the fluke first class return from Hawaii where I fattened up on complementary caviar before dinnertime on the plane. JAL had Shiseido products in the bathroom, and a kiwi vodka house drink that made me pass out in the aisle. I was 21.
Japan was amazing and boring at the same time. I worked for a tranny club designing costumes for shows, made flyers for gay clubs, and worked for a branding company fulltime coming up with slogans and logos for new shops, restaurants and record stores. I came back missing my American boyfriend, and before he would completely take me back I was wooed off my feet by this English guy who after one night confessed his love for me crying in a nervous fit (bad sign) and then proposed to me on my first trip to visit him in London a month later. Dammit, did I forget to mention, during my junior year of college I went to Paris to visit a depressed friend who was studying abroad and my mother showed up at the airport? Yeah.. that happened.
Anyway, so I ended up moving to London against my will at the request of my co-dependent ex-boyfriend. And that was a nightmare. I remember my last days in America typing letters to friends, listening to Catpower s Covers album and crying like a baby not wanting to go to school, into a wool Lufthansa blanket at the edge of my friend s bed. Then my American ex-boyfriend came over, tried to hump me, found my lost passport and off I went to live in jolly old England. I lived in Brighton for a few months, the alley of our house was the back alley for a line of curry restaurants which smelled terrible. I volunteered at a gallery and befriended an Italian ex-pat who would send me shoes and love, frequently. I worked on a Leigh Bowery exhibition, pet some pigs, and then moved to London. London was the best and hardest education I ve ever had. Coming from San Francisco where everyone walks with their heads at a 90 angle, and drive cars like boats, boy was I in for a ride. I worked at a shop called Kokon Tozai, and was asked after a day of wrapping and smiling, Betty, what do you really want to do? I replied, Art Direct Fashion shows . So I did. But my concept was stolen, sold and I was burned. Fashion sucked. It took me a year to go and do a work placement with Bless. I found their clothes and aesthetic really inspiring. So I had a go. I bought a ticket to Paris, and without a computer, hand drew my resume with a gold pen on bright yellow cardstock. I worked with Desiree on a Self Service shoot, and fell in love with Paris. The Parisians and Germans like to question everything. It was very interesting. The communication and questions, rather than selling of ideas was more important. Culture was celebrated. It was wonderful. And I hid from my mother for a bit. But eventually seeing her was a gift. I left Paris for a trip home and would like to go back soon. My mother was hit by a car there, and her death is a mystery. My family received death threats if we were to come and bury her. Which of course we did. I m sitting at a desk in America in transition wondering if New York is where I should be next, juggling a boyfriend who likes to be domestic but not sure if he s ready to take a domestic step with me, and well, I eventually wanna live in Paris again. I plan on going to fashion week for my birthday just to have a look. The gardens, the architecture, the late nights along the river have stayed with me. I just need to work on getting back there with the strength of a solid career behind me and exporting my boyfriend with me.. who knows perhaps by then we can raise a family there. It s what I d like to do. I ve never experienced the longing for a baby before. I don t know if it s my age or if it s finding the perfect mate. If there is such a thing. I m pretty happy, and damned lucky right now is all I have to say.