As most of you have witnessed by now, I'm not the most prolific writer. Being a single dad in the middle of an apartment renovation and a stressful economy aren't necessarily helping things these days. However, I've got some random thoughts to share so I thought I'd spit them out here quickly.
THE PEANUT TURNS SIX
Every year when the Peanut's birthday rolls around, I ask her in my saddest and most forlorn voice, "Hey sweetie, do you want to have a party this year?" immediately followed by an exceedingly enthusiastic "or would you rather go to THE ZOO, pet some CUTE BABY SEALS, and eat a MOUNTAIN OF CAKE?"
This year, she didn't fall for it. Instead, she insisted on having a Princess Party with six of her closest girlfriends. This involved multiple outfit changes, macabre make-up sessions, insane amounts of screaming, criminal acts of civil disobedience, mosh pits, pizza gorging, and a chocolate cake orgy.
As far as I know, nobody got hurt or developed an eating disorder. Yay, success!
It's funny thinking about how it wasn't long ago that the Peanut was just a little baby whose sole ability was to be adorably cute on demand.
But strictly speaking, I like these days much better. It's incredible having an inquisitively playful, intellectually curious, and emotionally connected kid who never ceases to amaze you. So yeah, six pretty much rocks.
Happy birthday, kiddo. I hope you always know how much I love you.
DO THE MATH
I, on the other hand, recently turned 42. While I generally feel pretty good about this benchmark, my daughter helped put things in a wholly different perspective.
Every time we're on the subway together, I give her math problems (yes, I'm that Asian dad.) Last week, while quizzing her on the 2 train about our age difference, she did the math in her head and then loudly yelled out for everyone to hear, "HOLY COW, YOU'RE 36 YEARS OLDER THAN ME? THAT'S CRAZY!"
I hope to someday be rich enough where the two of us will never have to take public transportation again.
I used to think my dream woman was a mash-up of Zhang Ziyi, Tori Amos and Phoebe Cates but now I think she’s probably more a mash-up of Maggie Cheung, Christine Amanpour and Joan Didion. I could be wrong about this though.
SHORT BOOK REVIEWS OF BOOKS I HAVEN'T FINISHED YET
"The Snakehead" by Patrick Radden Keefe
An incredible account of how a middle-aged grandmother, working out of a tiny noodle shop in Chinatown, built a multimillion-dollar global empire smuggling Chinese immigrants into America. Book reads like a thriller as it explores the underbelly of human trafficking around the world.
"Hitch 22: A Memoir" by Christopher Hitchens
Love him or hate him, Hitch could care less. For him, the pen is always mightier than the sword. These memoirs are shockingly candid and brilliantly written. Quite possibly my favorite literary memoir since Martin Amis' "Experience."
"Freedom" by Jonathan Franzen
I know people had mixed reactions to "The Corrections" but I thought it was one of the best books written in the past 10 years. And while I'm only one chapter into Franzen's latest, he remains in my mind as one of the best story tellers in contemporary fiction.
CHING CHONG RACISM: YOU NEVER FORGET YOUR FIRST TIME
As a young Asian-American kid growing up in a predominantly white neighborhood, I always knew that I was different from all the other kids.
But it wasn't until I was in 5th grade that I experienced racial hatred for the first time.
During a friendly game of tackle football, I got in a scuffle with an Italian kid named Tony. While we were pushing each other around, Tony made the "chinky eyes" and said, "Fuck you, man. You're nothing but a fucking chink gook!"
I was nine years old.
I'd never even heard the words "chink" or "gook" before. And yeah, I knew my eyes were smaller but I didn't know that was something to be teased about. Shit, I never made fun of all the other kids because of their fucked-up noses or their jacked-up teeth.
As I stood there trying to process this new information, I heard my Irish buddy Tom and his older brother get in Tony's face. Even at that life-altering moment, I remember wondering whether the two of them were actually defending my honor or just looking for an excuse for a really good brawl. Heck, the last time Tom had gotten in a fight was when Tony made us sit in his driveway and watch while he drove the motorized go-cart his dad had gotten him for his 8th birthday.
Anyway, a few moments later, Tom and his brother grabbed Tony, pinned him down, and yelled for me to come over and punch him in the face.
Man, I have to admit that hitting him felt good. And yeah, the first time I experienced racism was also the first time I got into a fight. I don't think it's a coincidence that those two facts are related. Nobody likes to be different. Especially when you're nine.
As has been well documented, I love raising my daughter in New York City. Growing up here, she's been exposed to a wide diaspora of race, colors, creeds and sexual orientations that have made her oblivious to the differences that separate and divide so many of us as adults.
Sadly, that bubble has been broken.
Last week, BossLady was picking the Peanut up from school when an elderly Latino gentleman approached her to apologize for his grandson's behavior. Apparently, his grandson and another boy had been mocking and teasing the Peanut by making "chinky eyes" and yelling "ching chong, ching chong."
The kids are in first grade.
As BossLady was listening to the elderly man's apology, she saw two students in 3rd grade run past the Peanut and yell "ching chong, ching chong." Apparently, this has been a trend in the school.
Are you fucking kidding me?
When we discussed this with the Peanut, she said that she thought the boys sounded stupid making those noises and that she was "lucky" that her teacher stepped in to move the boys to a different table. What's the world coming to that my daughter has to feel "lucky" to not be taunted with racial epithets in her first-grade classroom?
The Peanut is in a new school this year. We moved her because we were so impressed with how the school seemed to truly embrace diversity and, to be honest, the school handled the incident wonderfully and appropriately.
However, I find it sadly ironic that the Peanut had no concept of race or color before she even came to this school. It took less than a week before she learned that she was Asian. One of her little classmates had apparently lectured her on racial stereotypes and distinctions. The Peanut was so confused that she came home one day and asked whether it was true that we were "Ajin".
She knew that people looked different but there was never any judgment behind that. It was beautiful to see and I'm sorry to see that loss of innocence.
Like I said, you never forget your first time.
ON THE FLIP SIDE: USING MY ASIAN POWERS FOR MY OWN ENTERTAINMENT
Despite the fact that all my friends know I was born and raised in NY, some of them still cannot help but think that all Asians are imbued at birth with some sacred and mystical Far East knowledge. It's truly amazing to me.
Last week, I went over to a buddy's apartment and, as a joke, I told him that the Feng Shui in his apartment was completely off and that he needed to immediately move all his furniture around if he wanted to regain spiritual balance in his life.
I had him moving stuff around for about an hour before I couldn't take it anymore and started laughing so hard that tears were coming down my eyes. The dude was lathered in sweat from moving all his couches around the apartment. He even started complaining that my prank had caused him to re-injure his shoulder.
I told him to stay cool and grab some toothpicks so I could perform some ancient Far East acupuncture on him.
(1) Thanks to KoreAm for naming MetroDad as one of the Top 10 Asian-American blogs. I am humbly honored.
(2) Still undecided on whether to maintain my Twitter page. Whom should I be following?
(3) I know times are tough these days but, as the year ends, if you are lucky enough to be able to donate a small amount in order to help those less fortunate, please consider donating to help honor my friend's memory. The Andrew Golkin Fund has provided scholarships to some incredible kids and we'd love to do even more for them.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and all your loved ones!