Thursday, December 23, 2004

Still at work

So, here I am... still at work.

I was supposed to have the day off, but decided to come in to finish off some projects, with the intention of leaving at noon. Noon comes along, I pack my stuff and head out into a wet, wintry, slushy, rainy Toronto. I wander about and get my haircut, enjoying the notion that the rest of the day will be for me. Then, I get an email from a client crying that the sky has fallen, desperate for help.

I have no recourse but to return to work to finish things off. My colleagues who were supposed to be working buggered off before me.

I am in a rotten mood and it's getting worse. My plans of champagne and Oprah are as muddied as the Toronto streets. My cool exterior still gives off a pleasant facade, but I feel like pissing on everyone who walks by.

I hope this drama ends quick, before I go ballistic.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Wrapping Up

I was at the LCBO (Liquor store) today amongst the masses purchasing last minute party favours and gifts for colleagues. The place was a zoo, but I had no choice as I had to purcahse some Cognac for a colleague. When I got to the cash, the cashier asked if I wanted the gift wrapped for $2.50. Having no time to do it myself, I agreed.

I waited for 10 minutes when a slightly confused guy came up to the wrapping desk to assist me. The first words out of his mouth were “I have never wrapped anything before”. I decided to take matters into my own hands and told him to stand aside and I would wrap my own gift.

He made no attempt to disagree as the lineup was getting larger. In fact, it became quite the tutorial as I deftly wrapped, ribboned and parcelled my package. As I finished, the other waiting customers asked if I could wrap theirs instead of the fellow. I told them I didn’t work there, so I helped him on the next package and gave him some tips then left.

He followed my leave with a “thanks, how’d you learn to do that?”, with which I replied “ I’m gay, it’s hard coded into my genes”.

I could hear the laughter as I left.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Random Thoughts on a Random Day from a Random Individual

Random Thought 1
So I haven't done any Christmas shopping as yet. I don't think I'm actually exchanging anything with anyone, other than my parents and brother. That should be easy. I'll give my parents money and my brother vintage wine. But honestly, the whole Christmas shopping process is a headache and is what I consider an ordeal. I don't mind the idea of it, since it has been romanticised so much - the snow falling as you drink cocoa and window shop. However, in reality, it's all about frantic shoppers, commercialsim and stress. Not to mention, overheating in that wool sweater, and smelling like some stank wooly mammoth. On a side note, I do like to wrap gifts and decorate. My big thing is to wrap using a glue gun, so there are no visible tape marks...anal I know.

Random Thought 2
I bought a pair of Steve Madden shoes on November 17 from a shoe shop on Yonge street. The shoes promptly fell apart by December 01, so I returned them this weekend to find out what they could do for me. The owner and sales people were all speaking Cantonese (a language I cannot speak). They looked at me and I could tell they were debating the issue and questioning my validity, so I started pretending that I knew what they were talking about, just in case they were going to talk dirty or sneaky. Besides, it was my attempt at making them feel like I was one of them. I felt cheap doing it, but it seemed to work, so they took the shoes and my number down to investigate. I just hope that when I return they don't start talking to me in tongues, cause I won't understand a word of it.

Random Thought 3
I made a big batch of beef stew the other day. Lots of veggies and thickened with corn starch. The problem is that I don't think I can eat anything made with corn anymore. It gives me gas galore. Yesterday I was flatulating so much that my dog left the room in a huff because of the smell. This from a dog that has been seen eating a drunks vomit in the park. Rib Breaker, who was over last night said it smelled like a gerbil had crawled up my ass and died.

Random Thought 4
I brought in 5 bags of chocolates, one Friday about 2 weeks ago. By Tuesday all 5 bags of chocolates were gone. I was the most popular guy on the floor during that time. Now, everyone keeps walking by and asking when I will get more. All I could think was,

It was a one time thing you cheap bastards. Howz about you'se getz some chocolates and feed your sorry fat asses instead?

But that wouldn't be Christian of me.

Random Thought 5
I bought a Norfolk Christmas Tree. Just hope it doesn't die like the one I bought last year. That tree dried up like a... well... like a dried up tree. Rib Breaker finds it all very amusing since he doesn't really care for Christmas and all the hoopla associated to it. I am off to his work Christmas party tonight. Sort of odd, since we have been only seeing each other for 3 weeks now.

Random Thought 6
What do Jewish people do on Christmas Day, when everything is closed? It seems somewhat unfair doesn't it? From what I have observed, going out for Chinese Food seems to be the norm, as are the movies.

On a side note, why don't we get to celebrate and get Channukah, Rosh ha-Shanah or Yom Kippur off as holidays? When I was in University, we had all those days off. I was considered an honourary Jewish brother by some friends and was even invited to dinner at one friends family home once for the start of Channukah. Upon arriving, I was somewhat surprised to see a turkey and honeyed ham sittng on the table. There was of course the traditional matza ball soup and a beef brisket, but my shock was evident enough to elicit a remark from the mother who said something to the effect of "tradition shmadition, pork tastes good."

Random Thought 7
I will probably go to hell for laughing at this, but I couldn't resist not sharing it with you. It's a wonderful Christmas Jingle to help us remember those less fortunate than us.

Wednesday, December 8, 2004

Caption Contest - idea gratefully stolen from Wanda Wisdom

Since having had so much fun commenting on Wandas site, I decided it was high time to pick out the most atrocious celebrity outfits and poke a bit of fun at them. It wasn't hard since they were from the same damned actress/skank.
Now Bai Ling is apparently a famous Asian actress, but man is she ever fugly! What a shame and embarrassment to my people. So come up with a caption for each of the 3 pics, and you too can win a personal fashion consultation from her stylist! The winner will be chosen based on wit and inappropriateness.

I see Paris, I see France, I can see your....wait, she ain't wearing any underpants!

Asian Trash?

Tuesday, December 7, 2004


It's Tuesday morning and I am still smarting from a weekend of fun and frolic. I have used the term "no pain, no gain" often enough, but little did I realise that I would take it to the 9th degree. The end result is that I have some serious S.R.I.

Sex Related Injuries

It seems my birthday weekend was one to remember. It also seems that with age, not only do your bones go brittle, but your brain atrophies into stupidity.

Without getting into the sordid details, lets just say that I was feeling a serious amount of pain in my upper chest (rib) area on Sunday night/Monday morning. I already had a doctors appointment booked for 9:45am on Monday, so I took the opportunity to chat with my doctor about it. It went like this:

Doc: So how are you doing?
Me: Pretty good, but I have a question before anything else.
Doc: Alright, shoot.
Me: How do you know if you have a broken or fractured rib?
Doc: (with eyebrows raised): Umm, well, you would feel a sharp pain as you breathe and tenderness where the trauma took place. Now may I ask you a question?
Me: Shoot.
Doc: Now, I have to question why my patient would be asking me that. Lift your shirt up and lets have a look.

I didn't embellish too much about my sexual adventures, but he got the idea and left it alone. As I lifted my shirt up, wincing in pain, my doc let out a "Holy shit, what the hell were you up to?" He sent me for X-Rays, where we have now determined that I have a possible fractured upper anterior rib. Though I may be smarting from my stupidity, both my partner in crime and I have been having a grand 'ol time laughing about it. You can really only laugh in such situations.

My partner in crime, though also a little sore, came out of it unscathed and has been feeling terribly guilty. Tending to my aches and pains wth massages at night, he wakes me every morning with a warm hug and a kiss to the nose and forehead before he goes off to work. It seems to make the world of difference.

Wednesday, December 1, 2004

A day All too important to forget

Today is a day of great importance. A day that for me, is a celebration of life and of hope. It is a day that we all too often forget and wish was not here.

Yes, it is my birthday, but no that is not what I am referring too.

Today is
World AIDS Day, and now more than ever, we need to focus on this disease and the global crisis it has taken on the world. Currently, the statistics show that 40 million people are living with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, with 5 million new cases and 3 million deaths reported last year (read here). Almost ½ of the new infections are amongst young people aged 15 to 24, and nearly 5 million people became infected in 2003.

I have spent almost two-thirds of my life living in a world that has been overshadowed by this disease and epidemic, and it has irrevocably changed my life, in so many ways. I wonder if it is too much to ask to see the day when there will be a cure, but I know that it will be one of the happiest days of my life.

I don’t want to see more friends get sick.
I don’t want to see more friends die,.
And I am tired of seeing friends live through the pain and shun of having this disease.

I want to see people come together and pay attention and realise that this battle is not over. With the advent of stronger HIV cocktails and AIDS Treatments, we are closer to an AIDS/HIV vaccine and other discoveries, but my fear is that people will believe that they can take greater risks because of it. There needs to be a greater awareness, not just for gay men, but for every man, woman and child of every ethnicity and sexual orientation. We still need to shed light on this
global crisis.

So, tonight instead of partying up a storm, I will be clebrating my birthday by volunteering for
CANFAR, at their annual fundraiser Bloor Street Entertains. It is the least I can do, to give back and support a community that desperately needs it.

HIV has not gone away, and it is something we all need to be concerned about. We all need to take action, whether it is through volunteering, funding or simply educating ourselves and those around us. It may be an unfortunate irony that I share my birthday with this day of action and memory, but it makes it that much more important and meaningful for me.

So please take some time out to educate yourselves.

That’s all I ask of you on my birthday.

For online support and information:

AIDS & Sexual Health Line Toronto

POZ Canadaian Forum

Aids Committee of Toronto

Toronto PWA Foundation

Friday, November 12, 2004

Relationships: What does it take?

The other day I was having lunch with my very cool gay boss, whom I often strike up interesting conversations about life and the like. The conversation at some point turned to relationships and how one was to truly know whether that individual would be the right one. This question had actually been on my mind for some time. The seed was planted a week or so ago after a dinner conversation between 4 old high school buddies of mine, where our conversation focused on the idea of compromise and sacrifice.

Let me start by saying that nothing is truly forever. Now, before I get any nasty comments that I am demeaning or devaluing relationships, let me just explain.

We are constantly changing, dealing and adapting to new situations and environments. Is it realistic then for us to believe that our attitude or feelings toward one another will always be the same? As emotive sentient beings, we are prone to mood changes and fluxes in our attitudes and belief systems. However, having said this, I also believe that a relationship based on mutual respect, honesty and love can overcome nearly any barrier. This does not mean that things will be easy, but the effort would be the glue that binds. It would be arrogant to assume that a relationship will always be the same from the get-go, because that would assume a person does not grow and evolve. Who would want that? I certainly wouldn't. The idea of change to me is exciting. It is a path that I look forward to, and if I so happen to meet someone along the way, who is willing to share and grow in those experiences than all the better.

This brings me to compromise and sacrifice. To many people, they are one and the same, but I believe that they are fundamentally different. Compromise is something everyone does out of love and respect to his or her partner, in an effort to balance or come to a common ground. Sacrifice on the other hand is done solely by an individual to appease their partner. When you sacrifice too much in a relationship, you often begin to regret and confuse sacrifice for love. You cannot give away so much of yourself to others, where you are soon nothing but a skeleton of what you once were. A healthy relationship allows each individual to grow separately and to bring to the relationship the value of his or her own growth and discoveries. It is usually these personal discoveries that make the relationship richer and deeper.

At this point, I can imagine the questions and comments. I feel the rolling of the eyes.

“How can this guy, who hasn’t been in a long-term relationship, know what it takes to be in one?”

Well, I never said I did. Nevertheless, I do know that I am not willing to lower my bar to accept and settle for something that is not for me. I am not willing to sacrifice my ideals to be with someone who expects me to change and be less than I am. If that is the expectation, then the relationship will be doomed because I will never be good enough in the eyes of the one wanting change. In fact, if my partner wanted or expected me to change, I would then question what it was that he was trying to accomplish through this change. Is he trying to fulfill his own needs? His own inadequacies? His own void?

Having said this, here is a quick statement of fact: I don't really know whether I will ever meet a life partner.

It is one of those elusive questions, but it does not bother me the same way it does for others, not because I don't want one, but because I don't know whether I would be a good husband (yet). My own realisation of this allows me to delve deeper into my own psyche as to why this may be, and allows me to work on it should the actual event arise. I suppose part of it all, is that I don’t need someone to fulfill some void in my life; or rather I don’t want somebody to fulfill a void in my life. I can only be a fully committed, participating husband or partner if I am truly honest and happy myself. It is all about my philosophy in life. It is about who I am and who I believe I can be.
It is about the journey.
It is about the potential.

Anyone up for the ride?

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Has everyone forgotten?

I have to say that I am terribly dissappointed in the lack of Rememberance for those who sacrificed their lives in War. I have been reading posts all day with the same sentiment. So, when I realised at 11:11:11 am that my company did not announce anything over the PA system I was aghast. I took my moment to reflect and continued my day. The company I work for employs over 3000 people at our campus and with all the technology and know how, they were unable to announce something over the PA or have a pop-up in our Outlook calender to remind everyone to take a moment of much valued reflection.

There are so many of us, our families or friends, who have been touched by war. My parents lived through it, my mothers father even died in a concentration camp. When we don't take a moment to remember, we fail to honour the memory and spirit of those who died. Those memories need to be cherished and reflected upon. I am 31 and when I realise that thousands of lives ended far younger than myself, I am heartbroken. I think about the lives that could have been, and the families and futures that could have been.

At least take a damned few minutes to relise what you have. Pay your respects.

A little soul searching

This past weekend I attended the funeral of my best friends grandfather. Though I did not know him, I know the family well, and consider them my own. It was a sombering experience, not because I haven’t been to funerals before, but because death always awakens ones internal conversations about life and what is important.

Expectedly, the whole experience began to churn the wheels in my head about the concept of life and death.

I left the funeral heavy with thought, and realised that my views on life and how to live it have become entwined with my ever changing and growing philosophy. Intrinsically, I believe that introspection and questioning of one’s philosophy brings greater “enlightenment” and happiness, so all these questions and insights are not uncommon to me. When I was in University studying Psychology, I began to resist the whole clinical evaluation of patients and began to assert that without counselling on a more introspective philosophical level, one would never attain true happiness. I do not subscribe to any true “philosophy” because I am not well educated on them to make a formed opinion. What I know of Idealism, Dualism or Plato etc, is all very minimal. By no means am I a Philosophy major, nor do I pretend to be. Those books I have read, have faded long into the mess I call my memory. Despite all my rambling, I do have a somewhat convoluted point, or logic. The logic and rationale that I have, is that there is no one way of approaching life and there is no way of rationalising the human spirit. It is far too complicated to understand.

The one thing that is not hard to understand, is that we are a reflection of our soul and what is happening there. Sadness, anger, hatred, love or happiness manifest themselves in the way we do things, and how we interact with the world. So, why not work on those things to achieve what it is we want? It is safe to say that most people wish for happiness then sadness, or love to hatred. But this is something that only comes from a concerted effort and from observance. Nothing comes out of nothing. One must observe and reflect upon the things that they do and why they do them to move forward in life.

On that thought, I believe strongly that to attain happiness and peace in our lives, we need to face the issues that confront us. We cannot turn away from them , believing that they will go away. If we do not attempt to actualise and fix the things that we believe are wrong within us, we cannot in turn help others. The greatest challenge in the world is to face up to your inadequacies and failures because we are always judging others, but never judging ourselves.

A part of me always says that I am too analytical about my cerebral processing, but I guess it is my attempt to continue to understand myself and the world around me. I am constantly questioning every thing that I know (or shall I say, what I think I know). I begin to argue one thought, but suddenly see the holes in it and begin to re-structure those ideas. I am always in a constant flux, never truly adhering to any one idea. I often find that I begin an idea, riding that thought like a derailed car, just to see where it goes. In fact, most of my cerebral ramblings take root this way, and they never seem to come to the conclusion that I expect.
To compound all this, a friend who was at the funeral started to chat with me about the idea of Soul and Corporeal Body and whether I believed there was an afterlife, or if we indeed contained a soul or spirit within us. The question wasn’t really odd considering my friend is an Acadaemic studying philosophy, but it was asked at a time when I was already being particularly introspective. I told him that I didn’t necessarily believe in a “heaven” or place where our souls went, but that I did believe that we continued to exist in some form or the other. I did not delve into it, as it was not the time, nor the place. The thought however, has been sommersaulting in my mind for the past week.

I obviously can’t be sure of this, but I do not believe our soul or spirit (whatever you may call it) goes to any one particular place. Everthing in this world and Universe is made up of a number of essential things, matter, atoms, molecules, etc. When we die, these things do not simply vanish into nothingness, but are absorbed back into Nature. Our body decomposes and becomes food or fodder for plants, insects and animals, which are then consumed by others, etc, etc. Essentially, we are all a part of each other. As I said earlier, Nothing comes of nothing. We each contain a piece of something that once was part of someone or something else, whether it is the air breathe, or the food we eat. It may seem somewhat disgusting, but that is the reality of it all. Everything is recycled. There is more to what is going on in this world then we think. We far too often fall into this microscopic view of the world, failing to realise that we belong to a bigger picture. Somehow, we are re-absorbed back into this macro-collective.

I had this crazy idea once that everybody we ever met in life was left with a bit of ourselves (good or bad). I believe when I said it, I referred to it as an imprint, and that our memories are essentially an embodiement of our spiritual self. Those that we remember have imprinted more strongly then those that we don’t. The idea is that they will carry a bit of ourselves in them, to carry on our memory and to take with them a bit of our spirit or soul to enrich their own life. Therefore, why would you treat someone badly so that they had a bad memory of you? Maybe the purpose of life is to spread our soul and spirit in as many places and things as possible. I suppose it is somewhat of a karmic theory, but it seems to work for me.

Anyhow, all these working theories are up for argument, but they are the fundamental philosophies with which I guide my life. I don’t expect others to believe or follow them, but they are a good starting place. I always look forward to debate and conversation about these things, so please pipe up.

P.S. On a side not, if our souls are absorbed into this macro-collective, or back into nature, then does that mean that we become both organic and inorganic spirits? If over a thousand years our bodies are layered in sediment and dug up in the form of some rock, like the dinosaurs, then does that mean part of our soul or spirit is in the rock?

Something to think about….or maybe not.

Thursday, November 4, 2004

A response to a reader

So I realise it has been some time since I have written anything, but I didn't think I would get lambasted for it. Apparently, there are a few people who have a lot of time on their hands who read my blog for whatever reason. So, when I neglected my duties to regale you all with my life stories, I received a personal message from a reader who suggested that if I wasn't able to "keep up with your [the] stories" then I should shut it down. Though this whole experience has somewhat inflated my ego, knowing that there are people actually reading my refuse, I was also slighty put off. Anyhow, this is what s/he wrote;

Dear Epicurist (Ms. Wu?)

I find it a little rude and neglectful that you do not keep up with your stories. If your going to blog and have a site up, you should write on a regular basis for your readers. Sometimes I come to your site and you blog daily, then I have to wait 3 weeks beofre your next one. I am not saying its your fault, but really, how hard could it be? Other people can do it.


Dear Anon,

First off, I thank you for enlightening me. I am truly very sorry for having failed my readers. I really should be more attentive, and far more consistent with my blogs regarding my bizarre stories dealing with people. I guess I didn't realise that my blogs were so important that you needed to write me a letter chastising me for it. I guess my full time job and busy life really shouldn't take precedence, while I entertain your mind. Since this is the first time I have written directly to any one individual through my blog, will you consider yourself lucky, and now leave me alone? Will you forgive me? Will you me?

Until anon...or at least until my next blog.

Cheers and thanks for reading.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

101 Things About Me.

  1. Why am I writing this list? Because I get asked these questions all the time.
  2. My astrological sign? Sagittarius.
  3. My Chinese sign? Ox.
  4. Favourite colour is baby blue.
  5. I live in downtown Toronto
  6. I was born, but not made in Taiwan.
  7. I have 1 older brother, who is married.
  8. We came to Canada when I was 9 months old.
  9. My mother is from India
  10. My father from Shanghai
  11. What does that make me? A Heinz 57 of Chinese.
  12. No, my mother is not Indian.
  13. Yes, she can make curry.
  14. No, she does not smell like curry.
  15. Yes, she sounds like Madhur Jaffrey.
  16. I can understand Mandarin and Hakka, but rarely speak either.
  17. What is Hakka? It's a people and a dialect.
  18. Both parents are retired and enjoy travelling and reading.
  19. I have had a total of 16 hamsters in my life, 2 birds and 1 fish.
  20. My dogs name is Kalyx (part Shep/ Sheltie).
  21. She does not get along with other dogs.
  22. No, I have not eaten dog or cat.
  23. I work in Telecommunications, but am the furthest thing from a geek.
  24. I walk to work.
  25. I like practical jokes.
  26. Yes, I am a goof.
  27. I love food.
  28. I eat like I have a hollow leg.
  29. Beware, I am lactose intolerant.
  30. I hate green peppers.
  31. Yes, I can cook.
  32. I am gay…I know I am pointing out the obvious.
  33. I play the piano.
  34. I cannot & will not sing.
  35. I do not DO Karaoke.
  36. I never remember words to songs.
  37. Actually, I have a very poor memory altogether.
  38. I hardly ever remember names.
  39. I love to garden.
  40. I love to stretch and do yoga.
  41. I love the outdoors.
  42. I dislike drama.
  43. I dislike pettiness.
  44. Sarcasm is deliciously fun.
  45. So is beer and vodka.
  46. I love to clean. It is therapeutic.
  47. Yes, I am weird
  48. I love the smell of a clean home.
  49. I would much rather clean another person’s home than mine.
  50. I will do laundry, but hate folding and putting it away.
  51. I hate putting dishes away.
  52. I hate taking garbage and recyclables out.
  53. I like photography and intend to practice more.
  54. I have no collectible hobbies.
  55. I do like watches though, and if I had more money, would collect those.
  56. I got a tattoo 10 years ago on my right upper arm, and intend to get more.
  57. I have 2 piercings, navel and ear (10 years).
  58. I love Starbucks coffee or strong coffee, not flavoured.
  59. I only use brown sugar.
  60. I am a snob when it comes to making tea, and refuse to drink it anywhere unless I make it.
  61. I do not generally like cold food (pizza, chicken, etc).
  62. I am not a big fan of shopping, despite my being gay.
  63. I have only done drag twice. Each time I looked like a Lesbian that was run over by a dumptruck, and each time I was trashed.
  64. I love water and the ocean.
  65. My idea of relaxation, is sitting on a beach or dock with a beer and friends.
  66. I have no real favourite television show.
  67. I drink 2 litres plus of water a day.
  68. My favourite underwear is 2Xist.
  69. I can be patient when it comes to certain things, but will get pissed off if people continuously abuse it.
  70. I like all music.
  71. I am quite reliable, and am always on time.
  72. I do not have a car.
  73. In fact, my drivers license has expired. My bad.
  74. I am left on the political spectrum when it comes to social issues, but am Right when it comes to fiscal responsibility.
  75. I was a socio-lefty commie pinko when I was in University (so say my friends).
  76. I was a peer counsellor for gay/lesbian/bi/transgenedered individuals while in University.
  77. I have arthritis.
  78. I do not have a sweet tooth, but love salty things.
  79. I try never to give up on people, though it can be taxing at times, they are still people I care about.
  80. I have one g-string (a gag gift).
  81. I tend to swear a lot.
  82. I tend to burp a lot, but am trying to get that under control.
  83. I think Prostitution and red light districts should be legalised and taxed.
  84. I do not have any particular religion that I follow, but find theology and religious practice very interesting.
  85. I use lip balm every day and am addicted to it.
  86. I do not like talking on the phone. I would rather just meet you and hang out.
  87. I am not a drama queen.
  88. This is a lucky number to superstitious Chinese.
  89. I am not superstitious.
  90. I am not a fan of dating. They are awkward and forced. I prefer meeting by chance and hanging.
  91. I would never admit to being a romantic, but am (I guess I just admitted that).
  92. I was a Fine arts and Psychology major in University.
  93. I went to college after for a Diploma in Information technology Networking.
  94. I abhor poor grammer.
  95. I am very forgetful, and leave my umbreallas, wallets and gloves everywhere.
  96. I volunteer.
  97. I believe in the innate goodness in all people.
  98. I tend to be optimistic and cheerful.
  99. I have no particular favourite time of the day.
  100. I love the sun.
  101. Favourite season is Spring, because it is fresh and new.

Friday, October 1, 2004

Tea bag Cozie?

That cool, crisp, nippiness is in the air again - always a telltale sign of fall.

But honestly is this really necessary?

I really don't know what to say about this, but thought it should generate some interesting comments. Not so sure about those colours on me, but I find the pattern sort of mesmerising.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Guvernment -Keane Concert

Hopes & Fears

Vocals: Tom Chaplin
Piano: Tim Rice-Oxley
Drums: Richard Hughes

It's Tuesdsay evening and I am at the Guvernment amidst a very eclectic all ages crowd. We are all waiting with anticipation for Keane to come on stage to perform from their album Hopes & Fears. I have come to the concert with one of my friends, whose birthday also happens to fall on this eve. We peruse the crowd and feel a bit old, but try to brush that to the back of our minds as a really cute 20 something comes by and stands in front of us.
The opening act French Kicks from NYC was good, though his voice was a little off.

After being asked for identification and almost refused entry to the bar, we walk around and have a few beers. Though I was flattered someone thought I was 13 years younger than my age, I was more annoyed about not getting some much needed liquid to quench my thirst. Around 10pm Keane came on and began to sing. The show was really very good and lead singer Tom Chaplin's voice was absolutely incredible. What is so unique about this U.K band is that they only have 3 permanent band members and no guitar player, using a mix of drums and keyboard and vocals to create their sound, which I liken to an 80's Radiohead/Coldplay. The show was great and I definitely see their appeal to all ages.

In Brief:
* Keane are from Battle in East Sussex.
* Drummer Richard first met Keyboard player Tim at about the age of 11.
* They rehearse and record in a little old room in Tim's parents' house in Battle.
* Their single Everybody's Changing was not their first release - they previously released a single in February 2000 and June 2001 on their own Zoomorphic label.
* They have just been named the most promising act on the music scene in a recent BBC online survey.

Check out the Keane interview.

Friday, September 17, 2004


I recently came across a blog about a homeless guy and his experiences on the street, and it reminded me of something I wrote earlier this year, which I never published, for reasons of my own. Here it is.

Sunday morning
I'm tired but still tweaked from an over-indulgent night of dancing and partying. I have since decided to prolong this with a couple of other friends, so have gone to an After-hours club, where we have been lounging and chatting. I peer into the dark corners of the club, but my eyes can't seem to penetrate the smokey haze. The throbbing of the overhead strobe lights pierce the thick air, making the whole experience even that more surreal. The music is deep and hard and the heavy bass vibrates us and increases the sensations and we are quite content.

I go down to the washroom to rinse my face. The cool water feels refreshing and rinses away the remnants of any fogginess. The bathroom is lit quite well, and appears to be empty except for the ever present bass. I turn to grab some towels to wipe off and I hear what sounds like a sobbing coming from the stalls. I turn to listen and the sobbing gets louder. I am unsure what to do, but decide to knock and ask if he or she is ok. The door opens and I see a skinny guy with tattoos on his arms and neck. His eyes are red and tears stream down his face. He looks oddly familiar but I can't place him. He looks at me and asks if I have a smoke, but I don't. He looks at me again, eyes squinting, thinking. They open wide for a second, then he says an almost inaudible "Alex?"

I look at him again and clarity begins to take hold. I take a step back and am shocked. The familiarity seems to be coming back, but he is nothing but a shell of what I remember. His gaunt face, skinny body and disshevelled appearance are almost unrecognizable. Che (as in Guevara) and I knew each other close to 8 years ago, when I used to see him in the clubs or on Church street. He was a nice, handsome kid, very friendly who hung out with the circuit crowd, despite being straight.

Che and I chat and I soon find out that he got involved into heavy drugs years ago, and spiralled downwards into addiction, theft, and then jail. He tells me he has been out of jail for a few months, but was just kicked out of his home with just the clothes and knapsack on his back. He looks desperate and asks if I can lend him money for food. He definitely looks like he needs it, so we walk out to the Burger King and I get him a few burgers which he wolfs down. We continue talking about his life and what his life has been like, living on the streets, selling crack and dope. I am perturbed. I am not accustomed to hearing stories like this, and can not possibly understand his situation. I am out of my element and my comfort zone, but I stay and listen, drawn into his stories like a child.

The sun has been up for sometime now, and I am getting tired and tell him I need to leave, but he begs me to stay and keep him company. He has no where to go, no where to sleep and it is -20 celsius outside. He also says he has no one to talk to. My heart breaks a little, and I am reminded of who he was, and what is now sitting before me. I can see that his tough street-wise exterior is just a facade for something lost. We chat for another hour and now he is beginning to nod off. Despite protests from my inner-voice, I tell him he can wash up and sleep on my couch for the day. He smiles and hugs me, saying that I won't be sorry. I am not sure what to think, but know that I can't leave him here in the cold.

We get to my place and he showers and asks if he can use my phone. He pulls out a little black book and points to a picture and says "thats my dad, and this is my mum". He says it matter-of-factly, but I can almost feel the memories racing through his head. He asks if he can call them as he has not spoken to them in a long time. He begins to dial, stops, then hangs up. He looks down at the floor, head in hands, then at me again with apprehension and frustration in his eyes. He passes me the phone and asks if I can dial for him and ask for his mom. I call and speak with her for a short bit, saying that I am an old friend and that he is ok. She is crying when I hand the phone to him. Che speaks quietly with her, hangs up and makes a note in his book. I ask what he is doing and he says that he is writing something down that his mother had said. I don't push any further.

Che calls his father next and they chat for an hour or so. He ends the conversation with "I love you dad." I really don't know what to say or do. We both just sit quietly as he deals with his demons.

Against my better judgement I allow him to stay the evening. He has washed his clothes and says he feels much better. He thanks me and asks if we can keep in touch and if he can stay a few more nights. I tell Che, that it is not appropriate and that I have work and other obligations to take care of. I see dissappointment in his face, almost as though he were used to being cast aside. I give him some old clothes to wear and give him my number and say that I will be happy to let him shower and eat here, but he cannot stay. He thanks me for the offer.

A week passes.
During this time, he calls me and he comes over to shower, eat and use my computer. We chat about his life and goals and what he needs to do, to get back on his feet. I assist him with his welfare and Parole officer appointments, and tell him he needs to put his money to proper use. He is grateful, but I am getting worried that he will become dependent on my help.

Week 2
It is several days later when I hear from him, and he asks if he can come over for food and rest. When he arrives, I can tell something else is up. He is even more haggard than before. We chat for a bit and he falls asleep while eating. I try waking him, but he won't wake, so I leave him there to rest, keeping a watchful eye. He looks like a kid, but the conversations and shit he has dealt with have made him street tough. It is only in these quiet vulnerable moments that he seems to let his guard down.

At some point in the evening I too fall asleep and when I wake, I find he is gone and has taken a number of things of mine. I take stock of the situation and feel anger and dissapointment well up, not because he did this, but because I already knew that this would happen, and I believed that somehow I might have gotten through to him. I feel like I should kick myself for having done what I did, but realise that it is past, and recipicent thoughts are not in my nature.

I don't know where he has gone, what has happened to him or if I will ever see him again. I imagine that he will never get away from his addictions, from the world of crime or the streets. His life was surrounded by darkness, distrust and despair, and I thought that for a moment I might have been able to reach out to him and bring him out of it. He was a hard core punk fan, and it seemed his only comfort and identity was his music. He lived his life reckless and "free" like the music he listened too, never realising that he was actually a prisoner of his own circumstances and of his own doing. He told me about his world and how he identified with his music and I got a sense of how he felt. He said his dream was to go back to California, where he would open a garage to fix cars, but reality is a bitch, and the fact is that he is or will be just another sad statistic.

Twenty one, feeling down
I tell you nothing with a thousand words
and I get weaker, with every step
I waste my money on compact disc's and stale fish
I can't remember the last time I did something that made
me feel alright longer than a few hours
if I only had the strength to make some muffins then I
swear that I would share them with you now.
Am I odd or am I not?
That's a question I spend time analysing
I'm so soft, but still I'm not
living up to what people want me to be
cause I'm busy with me, myself and I
can't be understood by someone I don't know to well
so I'm shutting out the whole world just to play Nintendo
I've got these new games but I'm afraid you can't join me.
...These last few years I've been strugglin
and I'm tired of keeping low profile
so now it's time to show that I'm alive...
I'm gonna change my life, plans, Vans start to dance
change my thoughts, sox, moves, even my pro fighter Q.
This apparently was his favourite song. It speaks for itself.
I wish him luck and hope he finds peace.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Grandpapa Part deux

With fear in his eyes, my father has told us that our dear old grandfather has picked up and left China, buying a one way plane ticket to New York City on September 09. This all taking place after my Uncle in Taiwan got so fed up with my grandfather calling and screaming at him, that he gave all my grandfathers money back to him (as he was managing his accounts). Those of you who have just tuned in, this is Part deux of an ongoing saga, previously written about here. Apparently, the old man has been getting more and more belligerent with his live-in maids and helpers and has been throwing things at them. My father has told him not to come here, as we do not have the time or means to care for him, and my Aunt is scared to death since she is the one living in NYC.

When I visited him in China, I could see that his feisty temper and disposition had not changed. The only difference was that he was older and more frail. His mind worked in circuitous rhythms, and he would stare into us with his blurry eyes, seemingly knowing all our thoughts and secrets. We told him we were in China for only a few more days and had to leave, but we knew he could see through it. It was like trying to trick a child to eat breaded liver, when they could easily see that it was simply breaded to disguise it. I imagined what it would be like to reach the ripe age of 95 and vowed that if I ever got to 70 I would be happy. The pain and burden is something I would not wish upon any friend or family member to bear.

The last I heard, he had arrived at my Aunts' door, where he slept for 2 days straight. When he got up, he started screaming and kvetching about the family and now is planning on staying at his Mennonite friends place in Rochester. Apparently, Mr. Mennonite said grandpapa was welcome, but now Mrs. Mennonite is not happy about it and won't have anything to do with it. How can I blame them? I lived with him for 10 years and he never treated me like a grandson, more of a servant and task doer. Anyhow, I have no idea where the saga will end, but I will certainly keep you all in the loop.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Life Lessons and My Philosophy

Archie:All In The Family I would like to believe that I am a fairly friendly, decent individual, who most people will find easy to talk to. I tend to be one of those guys that will smile when spoken or smiled to, and some have said that I am quite extroverted and gregarious. I see nothing wrong with a smile or courteous nod. So, it is not surprising to me nowadays when someone will smile or nod at me when walking down the street. However, yesterday as I returned home from the Barber shop, a man stopped in his tracks staring at me blankly . I looked at him and kindly nodded, at which point he said "Hong Kong?". I walked by at which point he said it again. I turned around and this is how the conversation went;

Me: "Excuse me?"
Guy (In an exagerrated slow voice): "Hooooooonnnngggg Kooooooooonnnngg?"
Me (slightly dumbfounded): "Ummm, what?"
Guy: "Arrrree yooou froooommmm Hoooooooonnngg Kooooonnnng?"
Me: "No. I am not from Hong Kong. And why are you speaking like that?"
Guy: "Oh, your not from Hong Kong? You look like it?"
Me: "Oh really? And what does a Hong Kong person look like?"
Guy: "Just like you!"
Me: "I see. Well, first off that was an extremely rude comment to make. You don't just walk up to someone and say 'Hong Kong'. It was rude and presumptuous."
Guy: (now offended): "How was that rude? I have been to Hong Kong many times and that is what you people look like!"
Me: "Listen dude. I don't know where you think you can talk to a person like that, but you shouldn't assume that I am from a particular place based on my skin. Why do you assume I am not Canadian?"
Guy: "Well, I will be sure never to speak to you again! You should know, that I have been to Hong Kong many times and you are exactly how they look!"
Me: "I am only telling you that you were rude and that you ought to learn a few things about assumptions. Goodbye and good luck!"

I left somewhat upset, but content that I had said what needed to be said. Whether he chose to learn from it or not, was now in his court.

I have dealt with plenty of ignorant and racist comments throughout my life, yet each time I am confronted with them (no matter how humourous they may be), I am still slightly shocked. I have always made a conscious effort to educate and learn from the experience, but even that can get tiresome. I do not want to be an educator to those who do not wish to learn. My experience as a Race and Ethnicity (discrimination) counsellor and as a peer counsellor for gays and lesbians has provided me a unique insight about many peoples' experiences, and what it is like for them based on their ethnic, cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. As hard as it is to believe, I am not perfect and clearly realise that I can be as hypocritical and prejudicial in my own thoughts. However, I believe that there is a marked difference between those who are ignorant, who do not have a formed opinion and those who are ignorant and do have a formed opinion. The latter can be racist and hateful, the prior is not. Let me try to explain.

In our current age, the idea of multi-culturalism is almost a day-to-day word that apparently defines our society as "including people who have many different customs and beliefs". Note, that this does not mean acceptance, nor does it mean tolerance. That kind of understanding and knowledge are things we actively learn or seek, based on our need to understand the world around us. An individual who is willing to learn and who does not form an opinion about things, is likely to learn from their experiences. They are the types of people who will re-evaluate and think about their opinions and the nature in which they structure their beliefs. I have had many a conversation where someone will make comments such as "Chinese people are bad drivers" or ask if "All Chinese people are Buddhists and Communists?" I do not necessarily think they are racist, but do believe that they are accountable for the words that they have said. If what they say offends me, then it is my right to say so. I am of the belief that education does not equal intelligence, and intelligence doesn't necessarily foster tolerance or acceptance. Additionally, the idea of multiculturalism does not equal tolerance.

I discussed the incident with a friend of mine almost right after it had happened. He was very sympathetic, but duly pointed out that I too in this blog have appeared somewhat 'intolerant' - having imitated accents or made irreverent comments about the homeless. I of course, have never been reverent about much, but those who know me understand that this blog site is a mixture of humour, sarcasm and a willingness to share my experience as an Asian-gay-Canadian male, and what it is like for me on a daily basis to live in the skin that I am in. It is my experience and voice that leads me to my own discoveries about who I am and what I share with other people. It is not the voice of others and is not representative of anyone else but me. Unlike the man on the street, if someone were to point something out to me that offended them, I could enter a discussion about it. I do not believe in rigidity and stubborness. Only a fool would believe that they have the only answer - and is a sign of extreme vanity. Knowledge is something that you gain by challenging it. I leave with you all a few Confucious quotes from the Analects that may help explain my philosophy.

A gentleman can see a question from all sides without bias. The small man is biased and can see a question only from one side. - Confucius, Analects, c.400 b.c.

    Real knowledge is to know the extent of ones ignorance. - Confucius, Analects, c. 400 b.c.

    Without knowing the force of words, it is impossible to know men. - Confucius, Analects, c.400 b.c

    If one learns but does not think, one will be bewildered. If one thinks but does not learn from others, one will be imperiled. - Confucius, Analects, c.400 b.c.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Amazing Race Observations

Dear god. I am finally admitting that I am an Amazing Race Junkie. For those of you who do not follow Reality Television, it is a Reality show that follows 12 Teams in groups of 2 around the world. I have been watching for quite some time now, and find the show an excellent portrayal of how not to act when travelling. I have come to a number of conclusions about this show, but more particularly its' contestants;

1. Americans can be particularly stupid;
a) Sphinx is not pronounced "spinks". "ph" is said as an "f". Can you say "Anal Sphincter"?
b) Dubai is pronounced "Do Buy" not "Do Bay"

I have no idea where these sheltered people grew up, but they need to learn a bit more about world cultures. Which brings me to point number...

2. You cannot bring your personal idealogies, belief systems and Religious views to another country and expect them to be the same way. It galls me, that so many people fail to realise that they are the guest within another Host country, and as a sign of respect, you should bow to their ways so long as they don't completely compromise yours.

3. I have no idea why gay men always complain that gay relationships never last. My opinion is that we get out of them when they no longer work. Unfortnately, too many straight people stay in abusive relationships because they choose to settle. Then they get married and have kids, which all seem to be futile acts to keep a dysfunctional relationship together. I have watched many married or partnered Teams fall apart because they have little respect for one another (i.e. Collin and Christe) I know this is a slight generalisation, but look forward to another blog about this.

4. If someone can't speak English, shouting and saying it more slowly while gesticulating wildly, most likely will not help. Try speaking more calmly and smile. They will be more recepetive.

5. Treat others as you wish to be treated. That which you give, always comes back two-fold. It is karmic to a degree. If someone sees you being an ass, do you really think that person will be nice to you?

Anyhow, this has been my enlightening observation for the day. Feel free to comment or lambast me.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Giberto vs Alien?

So after turning down the option to go see Bebel Giberto at the Carlu (which I am sure would have been a fantastic evening) I decided to join a Couple-friend of mine to see Alien vs Predator at the Docks. This is definitely not my genre of film, but I decided that a night out by the lake at a drive-in theatre would be fun.

We drove down to the out door theatre (by day it is a golfing range) where 39 bucks was spent for 3 of us, for a double feature (including Bourne Supremacy). We grabbed our hamburgers, popcorn and munchies and set ourselves up for the viewing. Little did we know that every couple in every car within the lot was a straight couple, all of whom sat with seat full-down (not quite conducive to viewing). I soon realised how odd it looked with 3 fags at a Drive-in Theatre. The movie aside from being horrible was completely unviewable due to the lights coming from all the lights at the Docks and from the city. We spent most of our time jostling and trying to get comfortable, whilst trying to determine if it was in fact "a predator or Alien" at that time. To add to the melee of horror on screen, our car smelled like poutine and gravy, since my friend knocked over his food onto the front seat.

So, if you ever get an invite to see a classy performance by a renowned singer at a renowned theatre, please choose that over the White Trash movie at a White trash theatre.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Shameless Plug

I wanted to say many things to you all today, but all I really wanted to do was shamelessly beg you all to sign me up for Debbie Travis' Facelift show on HGTV. I swear upon my grave that you will be my bestest friend if I ever get it. My place is in dire need of a once over, and once I have a new kitchen and fabulous entertainment Pad, I will have you over for cocktails and hors d'oeuvres....Promise!

Oh, and if they ask why, come up with something creative and witty, sort of like me.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

So after some 2 weeks of procrastination, I finally decided to complete my bloodwork that my doctor had asked me to do. Not being particularly fond of being poked (by needles), I had held off as long as I could, until my Doc's assistant called to ask why I was taking so long. Besides, the damned requisition forms have been sitting in my knapsack the entire time and for some reason when I pulled them out, they had the ever slight aroma of burnt chicken wings and rotten oranges. Go figure.
Anyhow, I got up early this morning half groggy and still slightly dishevelled, and walked to the lab. The lab technician was this petite Filipina lady, with a very Filipino accent, and by the look on the her face, she didn't seem too pleased by the smell emanating from the forms.

She had me sit and then said to me,

"You must bill out deese bields on dee baper broperly, then sit behind curtain num-ber bour."

I nodded and proceeded to sit as told. She then said,

"We do not want you to baint. Did you eat breakbest or did you bast?"

I nodded and said I had not eaten this morning, but was perfectly fine to proceed. I began to question if I should have procrastinated longer, when she pulled out her alcohol pad, and smile at the site of my veins.

"Ohh, deese beins are so big. I will need to take bive biles of blood bor your doctor. Dis will be bery easy bor me."

"Great" I thought, "I have some crazy ass woman whom I can barely understand, who gets her ya-ya's from poking big veins". This all before I even had a coffee to jolt me into reality.
Anyhow, I'm glad I brought a smile to her twisted day. Meanwhile I am nursing my brusied vein.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Homo Hobo Hug

A few afternoons ago, I decided to go carousing with some friends, as it was a beautiful sunny day. We were walking down Church street when this kid sitting outside of the Xtra Office asked me for change. As usual, I said no, but the kid pressed on and with a grin asked "How about a hug?"

Without waiting a beat, he grabbed me, copped a feel and lifted me in the air in a bear hug. Now, I usually don't let strangers pick me up (well, some will argue that) let alone street kids, but I was in complete shock. I suppose the 5 or 6 beers I had earlier didn't help with my quick motor skills, but I did try in vain to get the kid to drop me. He kept squeezing me until I told him he was cutting off circulation.
I felt completely embarrassed, and dirty (not in the good way either) and immediately went home to burn my clothes and de-louse my body.

What is even more pathetic is that everyone who was watching, now believes that I have a Homo Hobo boyfriend....That's just GREAT!

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

A good friend of mine decided it was time for me to change my appearance. He says I need a good dose of "Queer eye for the Queer guy", so I assume he is telling me that I don't have any taste or fashion sense. Apparently I don't have any taste in friends either. Anyhow, I decided that the best thing to do, was heed his advice and shear my beautiful locks off. I did this last Friday, and can't quite figure it out as yet. I feel very different, edgier maybe, but think it comes off as G.I Jane meets starving Cambodian monk.
There are definitely the good and the bad:
The Good
- easy to manage.
- wash and go.
- no one recognises me.

The Bad
- I have a whack of hair products, with no hair to use it on.
- no one recognises me.


Mum just called me to talk about recent family events. It seems my 96 year old grandfather, who once lived with us in Toronto, but got bored and moved to China, is now bored with China and wants to move back to Toronto. My father will have nothing to do with it, and my senile and increasingly impatient grandfather is calling all 3 kids everyday. My Aunt in New York has resorted to not picking up the phone out of fear, and is now seeing a psychiatrist. My Uncle moved to Taiwan and hasn't told my grandfather where he has moved to. You have to understand my grandfather to understand why the family is avoiding him like the plague. He isn't the most pleasant man to deal with. He is impatient and very hot tempered...not exactly the image of a grandfather, or an evangelical reverend, which he once was. Anyhow, he has a short attention span and gets bored of things quickly. He has lived in nearly every state and pretty well drives everyone mad at some point. He has lived with us, then not lived with us, then lived with us, then not lived with us. I suppose I should be more empathetic towards him, but by all standards he is considered rich in China, and has 3+ people taking care of him (their whole family helps out) - he really is a full-time job. This past May/June, I went with my family to visit him, where we met the family and the woman who cooks for him. My grandfather is quite demanding and constantly screams and shouts that the food is horrible and that the woman is an imbecile. The mother ( the cook) is this sweet-kind-Buddhist-vegetarian woman, who wouldn't hurt a fly, but I've seen how she wants to take the Wok and knock the living daylights out of him.

Mum tells me dad is so confounded by what is happening that he feels like a lemming. Seems he is out of the home today to go get his Taiwan citizenship renewed along with my mothers. My father doesn't like Taiwan one bit, but says he would rather take 1 of the lesser evils - and flee back to Taiwan.

Monday, August 9, 2004

The Worst Pick-up Line

Ever meet someone so completely ignorant, that you have no other option but to laugh? Some of my personal experiences are so embarrassing that I'd rather not re-live, but the stupidity of some people simply brings a smile to my face, and this is my tribute to them. Life really is far too short to ignore the opportunity of making fun of idiots. A number of years ago (over 10), I was hanging with some buddies at a downtown Toronto bar, when this guy came up to me to chat. The ensuing conversation went like this:

White Dude(talking really slowly): "Hiiiii, Myyyyy name is Miiichaelllll. What's yooour name?"
Me: "uh, Alex."
WD: "Hiii Al-Lex. Is that your real name? Your English is verrry good."
Me thinking: Your an imbecile. God, I knew I should have gotten another drink.
Me: "Gee, thanks. I try really hard at speaking English well. And yes, Alex is my real name."
WD: "Wow, You barely have an accent and you have such beautiful yellow skin."
Me: "Yellow skin? That's lovely, thanks.
WD: You're very welcome!
So, don't you have a you-know, Oriental name?"
Me thinking: Why do you want to know? Even if I tell you, you'll bastardise it.
Me: "Yeah, it's xxxx-xxx."

He tries repeating it around 5 times like a kid picking up a new word. I just say "yeah, that's it! You got it!", just to shut him up.
WD: "What does it mean?"
Me: "It means, I'm not interested."
WD: "But you barely know me. I'm sure you will likey-likey." (he grins)
Me Thinking: Oh NO he Didn't just say that to me?
WD: So where are your from?"
Me: "Richmond Hill."
WD: "No, I mean, where are you really from? You're Oriental right?"
Me: "I'm from my mother. And just so you know, it's not Oriental. It's Chinese or Asian. Oriental is a refernece to the East, and is also a type of furniture. It's offensive. And I am sure you wouldn't want me calling you Occidental...maybe Accidental"
WD: "huh?"
Me: "Sorry Michael, but I have to go now. My master is waiting for me to pick him up in his rickshaw, and since my feet have been bound since I was 3, it takes me a while to get him home. Bye."

I'm always reminded of Margaret Cho and her One-woman show I'm The One That I Want

where she so eloquently discusses the humour and stupidity of some people when it comes to Race and ethnicity.
I guess I can't blame anyone, I mean, really, we all do look alike don't we?

Chicken Soup for the Soul

There is a saying that tragedy comes in threes. If recent events are any indication of what is to come next, I am likely to get struck by lightning (twice).

My sad and pathetic state of affairs began with a seemingly innocuous pot of soup. Momma always told me to make my own stock, as it was healthier and always that much more tastier- chciken soup for the soul as they would say. So, there I was on a typical Saturday afternoon, doing my usual chores- cleaning, laundry and this time, simmering a pot of chicken soup. Those of you who know me, realise that I have this slight obsessive need to clean, but decided early on that I would not spend my whole day dressed in a French Maid outfit dusting, lest I be called ‘pathetic loser’ by my friends. By early evening I was ready to go, ran to the kitchen turned off my soup and ran out the door. Had a pleasant evening and went out to a club with some friends only to return to my condo, which could only be described as smelling like a Hamilton smelting factory. My dog ran to me, sketchier than usual and I read the 3 notes left by security, all the while trying to gain my senses and cover my nose. Apparently, in my haste to leave my flat, I had inadvertently turned the element to Maximum, instead of OFF. The pot and its contents over the next 6 hours boiled down to an acrid smelling, blackened mass. The flat stank, as did all of the contents, including my dog. Security had come by to investigate after the neighbours called it in – it seems the alarm did not go off in my unit.
Needless to say, my face was as ashen gray as the pot. My brain was still half baked and I was not looking forward to the clean-up. Luckily, there was no fire and no visible smoke damage, but the acrid smoke had gotten into everything and I spent the rest of the day scubbing and cleaning while mumbling to myself. The second tragedy didn’t take long to traipse my way. After loading the dishwasher, I went to re-do all the laundry, when I heard the familiar sound of water running and my dog whining. Turning the corner to my kitchen, I realised I was standing in a water logged carpet, water flowing from the dishwasher and cabinets. It seems god decided to flood my kitchen as well, to quell the fire that once burned. Too bad his timing sucks. I ran to the main water valve and shut it off – the washer had broken resulting in the flood.
That evening, while sitting in my stinky apartment, exahusted from cleaning I turned on the television, only to see news about floods in Peterborough and fires in B.C. Not sure what calamity will come next, but if your keen on following, then just turn on the news.

Monday, June 7, 2004

China Trip Diaries

Friday May 21 - 21h15m

Enroute to China and I honestly don't know how you regular travellers do it. I have sat through 2 full length movies, countless news and short films, rubbery chicken with the ever so elegant flavour of cough medication, and I am only 8 hours into my 12 hour flight to Japan. A 1 hour waylay there and then 3 more hours on Air Nippon to Beijing. Where are the damned teleportation devices?

It is now 10:37pm EST, and I have been on this plane for 9 hours and 37 minutes. We are 1339 miles from our destination and I am going stir crazy. Can't sleep like most people because the seats are so small. I have gone to pee over 9 times. I have nothing better to do but wonder what they do with all that piss etc? Do they just release it while in flight? Puts a whole new spin on "raindrops are falling on my head". Anyhow, 3 hours and 37 minutes to go.

May 22 20h05m

After arriving at Beijing Airport, we were greeted by our tour guide Jeffrey who gave us the essentials on taxi and road etiquette, which I gathered was close to none. When you have 1.5 billion people travelling en masse, it makes it difficult to gauge what rules to follow - rickshaws, millions of cars, millions of bikes and millions of pedestrians. It was a wonder that I didn't see any accidents. We arrived at our hotel Marco Polo intact, and we settled in for a jet-lagged sleep. We were up at 5:30am, unable to sleep further.

May 23

Beijing is this incredible combination of modern and old. Cranes and new buildings literally dot the sky in every direction as far as one can see. Besides a short stint in Chinese studies in university, I am amazed and somewhat dissappointed with my lack of education about China. I half expected to see Communism and gray garbs still rampant. Instead, Beijing is modern and bustling with activity. It hosts 13 million, which is one third Canada's population and most seem to be in cars or motorbikes. I am told that there are 1,000 new cars driven onto these busy streets each day.

We have visited Tian'an'men Square, the Forbidden city and the Temple of Heaven. These are all architectural emblems of an ancient society, built by Emperors and dynasties that make up the history of China. Our last stop was the Lamas temple, an incredible Lamas Buddhist temple where I received much needed tranquility after a rather exhausting tour of the city.

May 24

Visited the Summer palace that rests on Kunming Lake, where the Dowager Empress built a palace to entertain her during the summer (the funds were taken from the Navy reserve, and resulted in the eventual demise of China to the Japanese). I have to say the place is gorgeous, but is packed with Chinese people pushing and spitting just about everywhere - I have gotten somewhat used to the nastiness - a cultural social difference which I will simply have to bear with as a foreigner to this country. This is one realisation that I have come to with some difficulty - That as a Chinese person raised in a Western country, I am looked at as a foreigner. I don't speak Mandarin (Putong Hua) very well and as such it is difficult to communicate. Additionally, the rules of western society, do not necessarily apply to this part of the world and I am fast seeing that my stereotypes and prejudices are something I need to work on.

For the afternoon, we take a long bumpy drive along precarious mountain roads from Beijing to Mutianyu, to see the Great Wall of China. It is immense and foreboding. The wall stretches and winds across the mountains and into the clouds. I feel as though I am riding a dragons back. The locals pester us to buy things and follow us along our whole walk, waiting and literally begging us to buy something. They wear torn ragged and dusty clothes, and will haggle to get any money. I feel bad but get postcards for 3 RMB (CAN$.50) and a shirt I haggled from 60RMB to 10RMB (CAN$1.50)

May 25

We are in Nanchang, a 2 hour flight from Beijing, and I can really see the impact of economic growth in an otherwise rural region. Nanchang is the birthing ground for the Communist-led uprising of August 1, 1927, but the marks of the Communist era are all but erased. The population is 1.5 million and is considered a small city. The city is dense, dirty and compact, and very humid and hot. The people are robust with a strong country-folk character. They are upfront, loud and direct. They are simple in many ways, that only one can understand when one speaks to them. They have grown from a river side rural and agricultural life to this bustling city. Hotels and franchises abound. Their simplicity became ever so evident when speaking to a local girl who we met through our local contact. She tells me she is from the country where her family still grows rice. She has all the modern accoutrements - has dyed red hair, has a cell phone, yet has never been out of this region, never seen a plane or a train.

I am here to spend a few days with my 95 year old grandfather and 96 year old grand aunt (his sister). They don’t get along well, and this portion of the trip is becoming tedious and painful.

May 26

We are headed for Longshan today. The drive is 4 hours and it is my first experience in seeing the country-side and the Agrarian lifestyle. The countryside hasn't changed all that much and I imagine myself in the old feudal dynastic society. Verdant fields of rice paddies, water bogged with mud brick homes and thatched clay tiled roofs. The only ties to the modern world are the occasional power lines and paved road that cuts through the landscape. Even in these rural areas there are tones of people, all working and toiling in the fields. I am humbled and feel the strength of these people. Their dark skin and dirty hands show their endurance and strength. Most live in mud clay homes or squat square structures. The countryside is hot hot hot. Humidity is the norm for this water bogged country - fed by 2 major rivers, the Chiang Jiang (Yangzi River) and Huang He (Yellow River).

Rice paddy fields, shanty towns, and beautifully carved mountains cover this landscape. I am in awe at the beauty and serenity of these sunny green pastures and looming mountains.

We reach Long Fu Shan (Dragon Tiger Mountain) and ride down the river in a very cool bamboo raft. 2 guides take us downstream and show us the Hanging Burial Caskets that are known for this region. On high cliffs surrounding the river are naturally carved niches and in them you can see burial caskets of the local ancestral people, placed seemingly precariously within.

May 29

We leave Nanchangs busy train station and settle into our 4 person 'soft seat' cabin, which cost 127RMB ($22can) Soft seat refers to sleeper cots, which are comfy and fairly clean. The trip is 9 hours, but they pass nicely with great views of the landscape (Definitely would recommend this mode of travel in China). Mind you the toilets again are just holes in the floor. Therefore, no shitting or pissing when at a station or you'll splatter some poor unsuspecting fool boarding or exiting the caboose.

Not everything was beautiful and amusing. On our trip, we witnessed the true slums of China in the steel manufacturing cities. People toiled in these remote towns, where coal burning produced dark clouds and flames that burned the skies. The homes were no more then a mixture of tin and bamboo shacks set up beside these factories. I always knew how fortunate I was, but seeing children play in these dirty slums and watching their mothers wash and prepare food in a dirty river simply brought tears to my eyes.

May 29-31

We arrived in Huangshan (Anhui Province) the home of my ancestors, late on the 30th. It is a major Agrarian society with its wet, foggy and temperate climate - with rice and tea being major exports. Green tea is specially grown here on steep slopes 800 ft above sea level, where they are continually covered in mist and rain. We have taken the Cable car up Huangsan (Yellow Mountain) and I am completely blown away by the beauty of this landscape. This is the China I have seen in paintings and movies (most recently in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). I have been looking forward to this part of the trip and am not dissappointed. The mountains are old and steep and we have taken many hikes through fog and mist filled forests. I can understand why this place has produced so many poets, painters and scholars.

Unfortunately this scenic attraction has been over run by tourists who scream and shout, led by tour guides with megaphone speakers to herd their flocks. I am upset by the lack of respect that they have for this place. I suppose this is my Western sensibility again, but I am finding the Chinese people of now quite the contrast of the china of past. History and poems have always depicted the Chinese and the culture as dignified, quiet, serene and beautiful. I haven't found much of that during my trip, but I can't possibly understand what living in a populated society like this would do to me. The sheer amount of people in China may explain the consant rush. Everyone is looking to get their job or task done first, they are looking to get that empty seat on the bus or train. This makes it a very busy and seemingly impatient society.

China has gone through a tumultuous 100 years and I have spoken and learned a lot about what the Cultural Revolution has done to many of the citizens - none of it good. I have witnessed impoverished porters walking up hundreds of steps, bringing provisions to the hotels above. They have hard looks on their faces, torn ragged clothes, and grunt with every step they take. They not only carry the weight of the world, but bamboo poles that carry 60 to 95 kilos of weight across their backs (they get paid by the amount of weight they can carry). It is their way of life and know they have no option but this to feed their families.

May 31-June 02

We have taken the cable car down the mountain and are walking the 500 year old streets of Tunxi. The old city has been repaired and you can see the beautiful frames and wood structures that are typical of the Anhui people and this region.

Our driver takes us to Hangzhou, which is a 4 hour drive along very bumpy country back roads. They are building a major highway and it should be finished by the end of the year. I suppose Communism has its merits, in that it can get things done very quickly (no one to argue with) and it also has an immense resource of people to do the work.

Hangzhou is the first modern city in China that I have seen that makes me feel more at ease. People are more courteous and drivers are less erratic. The shopping here is great as well. We visit my families' ancestral grave and spend the time walking around the city and eating local delicacies (none of which included civet cats or dog). I have weighed myself and I have gained 10 pounds while here. Those of you who know me well, know that is an enormous accomplishment for me.

June 02-June 05

We have taken the train to Shanghai, also known as the Pearl of the Orient, Whore of the East. Shanghai has been dragged through an incredibly chequered past of invasions and occupations. This created a wild city of opium dens, underground gambling joints, brothels, gangsters and decadence, all brought to an abrupt end by the suffocating grip of Communist rule in the late 1940s. The city is now under the influx of a greater power-money, commercialism and growth. This place is quite unbelievable. The city is filled with skyscrapers, glass towers and high-end boutique shops and malls that sell Gucci, Lagerfeld, Louis Vuitton and other fancy shmancy garbs. I am not surprised to see that the hunger for wealth, money and power has taken Shanghai by its graceful throat. Sophistication, wealth, modernism and success are on everyone’s mind. The city is one vast shopping spree. Foreigners abound everywhere and Shanghai is once again taking its place as the pearl of the Orient.

We have spent days here and visited family and many tourist attractions. Took the Maglev train from the city to the airport in 8 mins (428km/hour) and it was a wicked ride.

China has turned out to be a rollercoaster of experiences and emotions. I can safely say that I have ridden the Golden Dragon, but it has been emotionally taxing and I have discovered many new things about myself and the microcosm I call home. I have enjoyed my experience and personal growth while here, but am glad to return to my home. China may be my roots, but I have been transplanted and enjoy the soil here in Canada, and truly appreciate what I have more so then I could ever have imagined.