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.