Wednesday, January 25, 2012

waking dream

Dear Blogger-friends, friends, acquaintances and followers,

I am retiring and privatizing, possibly permanently deleting my long-time blogs, sweetemploy and traipsingpele, in order to start a new project and conserve motivation/creative juice for said project. I'm not yet sure whether it will be a new site or if I will continue to work on either of the old ones, but I need free reign to approach any subject, and I need to do more personal writing. Also, the purpose of these blogs was as much, if not more in some ways, to get feedback/have conversations/get closer to other people and connect, as for documenting my inspirations and life. It's hard to put a ratio on the breakdown of that but I am 90% sure that I wouldn't have so orphaned these blogs if I felt the presence of people "out there" reading and engaging with me... I'm aware that this maybe my own oversight or forgetfulness, and if that is so, it doesn't change the feeling of something missing. That said, I am very glad if you have read and gained something from what I did, and thanks for the comments. If you wish to still have access to the archive of these entries and I haven't trashed the blogs, do let me know and give me an email address so I can add you. If you would like to subscribe to my upcoming project, I will say that there will be some ground rules. Right now I'm thinking along the lines of: subscribers write a response at least every other post, whether by commenting directly or emailing me, or talking to me in person within a week of that post. I plan to take more risks with the content, so it will be serving varied personal needs, of which, a very important one is to test and strengthen my connection with other people. I am pretty open to exploring that with anyone. So...lemme know.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Party with Egyptians

In celebration of Muburak's resignation today, I'm posting this recording from Bulgaria (oddly enough!) in 2005, when about 25 of us American girls of various ethnicity who made up Superdevoiche at the time were backstage with the Varimezovi and an Egyptian ensemble. Their percussion was unstoppable, and after Ivan started jamming with them on his gaida for a while, a bunch of girls went over to dance around them. I caught it on my low-fi minidisc recorder. Basically, wherever they went there was a party around them, even while walking in the parades in Bourgas.

Go Egypt! Peace and prosperity through all your transitions.

This is a photo I snapped with my phone of the women in their group. They danced with the (lit!) candelabras balanced on their heads.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Give catering another shot, after last year's attempt?

It was bizarre and exhausting in the extreme, LA way. My first and only gig to date, I ended up at the Governor's Ball in Hollywood, one of, if not the main dinner party after the Oscar's. At my table, I served the actress from Ella Enchanted and her boyfriend. Caddy corner: Anthony Hopkin's table. I was too stressed out by pressure from 2 or 3 levels of management prowling around with walkie-talkies to be star struck, not that I have any opinion of Hollywood actors. I can't name more than a handful off the top of my head.

I may as well have been placing plates of filet mignon on the streets of Brazil. I was totally invisible, the picture of servitude, dizzy in a sea of sequins and colors, gowns with trains, blinding teeth and matching clutches, gloves, towering women with immaculate coiffures and milky skin. The live music was horrific. It was obvious, and assumed, that these stars treated the dinner as an obligation, and eating was an after-thought, or some kind of "free" night from a strict organic diet conceived by a yoga-fitness guru. Outside the ballroom, on my way to get desserts, I passed Sean Penn. He was keeping his distance from the ballroom while making an appearance. What an ordeal to receive an Oscar?

I kept smelling this amazing perfume, and thinking that fabulously wealthy people must have access to aesthetic sciences I've never dreamed of. As the guests trickled away hours later, I finally noticed a table on the level above me with bunches of hyacinths worked into the "Pan-Asian" arrangement. Ziumbiul, Tzvetanka's favorite flower, appears in many a Balkan tune. On my way onto the shuttle to the caterers' parking lot, I spied a bundle of 20 or so stems bound tightly together, fallen next to a bucket full of these flower bundles, in the back of a box truck. I dashed to liberate it and slipped back into line.

Just after we pulled away, we stopped at a light and an older woman in white shirt, black pants, black apron, walked forlornly in front of us. I could see she'd been crying. The other workers and passengers tried to get her attention, or to get the driver to open the door to let her in. It was past midnight, and she would have at least a 40 minute walk on the closed streets of Hollywood to get to the parking garage or a bus stop. She didn't hear us, and he didn't stop.

You wouldn't believe how purifying a bunch of 20 hyacinths can smell on a shuttle bus full of exhausted, demoralized human apes. They are the embodiment of Spring. A phallic thrust out of moist, thawed earth, even their flowers seem to be crystallized liquid, turning to a sugary purple sludge if bruised. Their form is incredibly feeble. It must be all about the permeating essence.

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Midwestern Memoir

We lived in a dingy duplex on the outskirts of Columbia Missouri for half a decade or so. My dad had been teaching at the University, where he was denied tenure for the second time. He told us it was discrimination, and started holing up in the utility closet with the water heater, where he read Chinese newspapers, laying on a cot. We called it the rat hole. Later, after a short stint of grant-writing at a community college, he was recruited by an Irish company in Beloit, Wisconsin, and he decided we would settle in Rockford, Illinois, because it had good schools. Movers came and packed up our dingy furniture and we left behind the matted carpet, the brick and aluminum-sided box we lived in, and our next-door neighbors in the box, the Jones family.

The Jones half of that duplex was the mirror image of our half, and in an odd way so was their family. They were the only other Asian mixed-race family in the neighborhood, though this never occurred to me as a unifying factor. Their mother was Korean, their father was white trash, and both wore vacant stares. They didn’t work and my sister told me they were on welfare. I didn’t know what that meant but it sounded shameful. I remember the mother squatting in their front doorstep, smoking cigarettes in her flip flops. They didn’t speak Korean at home, unlike our Mandarin-only household, and their kids were a wild bunch. The boys were especially mischievous and unkempt – the youngest entertained himself by putting snow in our mailbox. The only girl, Angie, was in my grade. I judged her as childish and dull, although I knew she was honest and wanted my solidarity. She later adopted my ex-best friend, then estranged after having moved to North Dakota for a year, and I kept my distance from the both of them from fourth grade on.

Before all of that, the three of us used to practice hand-stands and cartwheels in our front yard after school, which was an unseparated rectangle of grass in front of the box, each side of the yard with the same young (maple?) tree planted squarely in the middle. During thunderstorm season one year, while we were at school, a tornado tore through our neighborhood, ripping the roof off a garage down the block and tossing their jeep out into the meadow beyond. When we came home, our tree greeted us in triumph, while the Jones tree had been snapped in half, length-wise. Maintenance people came to remove it the next school day. My dad laughed and said that’s what they got for the mailbox snow – tornado discrimination.

We left behind the endless humid summers for northern Illinois, a two-story white house with a red door, hardwood floors, a lush and shady backyard, and quiet streets of “well-established” neighborhoods. When we first saw the house, it had a single large oak tree shading the front yard. I looked forward to tackling that tree and making it up as high into the branches as my nimble spirit dared, which was pretty far considering thunderstorms, loneliness, betrayal, and biking the hills of Missouri had weathered me. But, between seeing the house, making the down payment, and moving in, a storm came through, doing enough damage to the tree that the city had it removed before we arrived. “Discrimination!” Dad said. And to rub it in, Mother Nature blew the rich neighbor’s leaves into our yard, so that we had to rake the front yard despite our lack of shade. “Discrimination!” he joked.

Not long after moving into our dream-house, Dad had a bad dream one night after falling asleep in the master bedroom with his Chinese newspapers and shortwave radio. He dreamt that the Jones family had followed us to Rockford, and moved into the house next door. We laughed about it in the morning, but now I understand another dimension to the comedy. A few years ago my sister revealed that, while Dad was unemployed in his rat hole in Missouri, we had been on welfare too. I wonder what it must have been like for him to go to Aldi alone, and pull out the food stamps in line. At the time he had told me how the unemployment officer said he could at least get a job at McDonald's. He’d answered that he didn’t come all the way from Taiwan for a PhD just to get a job at McDonald’s. He reasoned to me that perhaps she was right. Did I want him to work at McDonald's? Should we move into a trailer? They’re cozy - remember like Heather Jo’s in Indiana? White trash and Asian trash and discrimination. He was haunted by the Joneses, and Heather Jo haunted me.

I think of those last years in Missouri as Columbia, Misery. But it was during that time of bitter defeat that he started taking me on the nature trails, where I would ride miles ahead of him as he jogged, through downpours, along the Mississippi, where the trains used to pass – down a tunnel of trees. One Spring, on Arbor Day, he forced me to go with him to a park and plant a maple tree with other community volunteers. It has been 14 years since we lived together as a tiny family. We don’t have a house anymore, no rights to land, arbors or foliage. Recently he talks about going back to that park to find our tree in the park, and wondering how tall it is now. I imagine it shading passers-by, untouched by discrimination.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Speed Market

This is not Taiwan, but if you watch through the end you'll get a sense of the malleability of the yieh si. We live in such a regulated society!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

New Playsuit (Un-ironed, Unfitted, Unkempt)

Still needs some serious finagling, but my machine is acting up. You can see where I'm headed?