rough neighborhood, huh.


i'm out of shape. i get winded just walking up a small hill, or else a flight of stairs. i decided today that i would try and run for a little bit. i would run to emily's house. this ended up with me running for about a block, and then i would stop and swear i was going to have a heart attack or worse, throw up. it took me almost an hour to get to her house. a healthier person probably could've done it in about twenty minutes.

after passing the soccer field in georgetown, this blonde girl ran up to me. as she did this, all i could think was, i'm either going to get conned, or this will turn into a movie-like romance. she was all hipstered out, and looked like a character straight out of a 1920's black and white silent film. "do you know where 13th and bailey is?" she frantically asked. i pulled the headphones out of my ears. "umm," i said. "either 13th or bailey," she said. "i think bailey is back that way," i said, pointing behind me. but then i remembered that i was wrong. "actually, it's that way," i said, pointing ahead of me.

"i'm just trying to catch the 60," she said. "oh, you can catch the sixty down there," i said, pointing toward michigan street. i thought at that point we would walk together, so i put my headphones away. instead, she said "thanks!" and added, "i hate georgetown!" then she towards michigan street. she didn't even bother to stick around and ask me where on michigan she should turn - left or right - but i saw later that she went left.

emily took me home before nine so i could deal with two dudes who were going to stop by my apartment to pick up my couch. they called at nine. "we're gonna be an hour late," the guy said. "we're shooting a documentary here in renton, and we're gonna be a little later than expected." "how late?" i asked, masking my annoyance. "probably an hour, an hour and fifteen." "alright," i said, "i'll be here." "sorry about that," he said. "no problem," i said.

less than an hour later, the two dudes showed up, just as they had promised. i shook their hands. matt and jeff or something like that. the couch was for their friend rachael. i imagine rachael must have been really hot to have two dudes come pick up a heavy-ass couch at a stranger's apartment in columbia city for her. one dude was wearing a blazer with jeans. the other dude was wearing a checkered sweater and blue shoes. his whole outfit probably came from zumiez.

"smells like subway in here," the dude with the blazer said. "yeah," i said, "it sucks." "yeah," he said, "it would probably get annoying after a while." my apartment smells like subway. that is one bad thing about my apartment. the dudes got to lifting the monstrosity out of my apartment. luckily, it only took them two tries to get it through my doorway. i helped a little bit, but not really. blazer said he was gonna go to his truck to get the bungee cords or something. i stood in the hallway with the couch and the zumiez kid. we got to talking.

"so, are you moving out, too?" zumiez asked me. "yeah," i said, "eventually. i don't know when. i'm just trying to pare things down." "oh." "you guys live in renton?" i asked. he looked somewhat afraid when i asked him this. maybe it was his first time meeting a craigslister and he assumed we were all sexual predators. "i live in lake stevens," he said, quietly. i like to think that he was thinking, please don't have your asian gang pay me a visit there. "cool," i said. "are you guys in school?" "yeah." "where do you go?" i asked. again, he looked uncomfortable with me giving him the third degree.

"we go to the art institute." "cool," i said. "yeah, it's pretty awesome," he said. "you know, like a lot of people don't really know what they want to study or what they're gonna do with it..." yeah, you're talking to one of those people, asshole. "but you know, i've always been into video and being creative. it's really great to be creative and everyone knows whether they're going to be an editor or director or whatever." what a nice kid, i thought. i wonder if he'll still be so nice when he has his degree.

the guys loaded the nasty couch onto the back of their red pickup truck. i saw a black man crossing the street. suddenly, zumiez kid said, "this is a pretty rough neighborhood, huh?" i should've lied. yeah, this is the fuckin' worst part of seattle, man. i'm surprised the thugs on my block haven't shot your white ass down yet. you'd better haul ass out of here, man! get the fuck out while you can! "no," i said. "it's a good neighborhood. there are some nice restaurants down the block." it weirded me out a little bit, that this kid was afraid of a neighborhood like columbia city.

the sheltered children continue to plague us as a society.
bitches at forever 21.


"hey, girl."
"hey."
"i ain't seen you in a while. you don't text...me. you don't call...me."
"i've been busy, though."
"man, those bitches at forever 21 didn't hire me."
"damn."
"so, where you headed?"
"school."
"you back, huh?"
"yeah. just started again this semester."
"me too. surprised i ain't seen you 'round."
"yeah. i ain't seen you, either."
"i haven't missed a single day since january 5th!"
"i have. hella."
all the excellent work they do.


"so, it turns out we might not be having the awards ceremony at all."
"what? how come?"
"well, we had a staff meeting earlier, and they decided it doesn't really fit in with our ideas of inclusion."
"so, what? no awards because everyone's excellent?"
"well, they're thinking about maybe scaling it back, or incorporating it earlier in the year with our open house event."
"hmm."
"what's your input on this?"
"i don't know. i went to it last year, and i thought it was really great to see people rewarded for all the excellent work they do. i really enjoyed it."
"maybe you should've been at the meeting."
"who was there?"
"everyone. all our staff."
"well, i really like the ceremony. let me know!"
dear lucas.


dear lucas,

i spit a popcorn kernel on your head once. it was my sixth birthday party, and we were in the first grade. it was the first time i had a bunch of dudes come over to celebrate my birthday. i don't know what compelled me to do it. i thought it would be funny, shooting kernels out of my mouth like my head was a gun. it went in your hair, and you freaked out. you cried, and you wanted to go home. my mom called your mom, said you weren't feeling well, and then you went home. i still regret spitting that kernel at you.

mostly, you hung out with the white boys, b.j., ryan, shane, jeff, and greg. you had a riot with greg in art class. greg would say bad words in spanish and the two of you would really laugh it up. i didn't find them that funny, but i played along, anyway. as the years went on, you played flag football, baseball, soccer and hockey with the other white kids. we asian kids stuck to one sport: basketball. sometimes, i broke down the racial divide and picked up a hockey stick, too. i wanted to see what else i might be good at.

once, while waiting in line for lunch, you and shane were discussing the season finale of the simpsons, the one where mr. burns gets shot. "did he die?" shane asked. "duh!" you said. "he got shot! of course he's dead!" i wonder how shocked you were when it turned out that mr. burns didn't die, and that little maggie simpson was the shooter.

we went to school together from kindergarten through the seventh grade. everyone was shocked when you didn't return for the final year, eighth grade. "i heard his family moved." "i heard his parents forgot to register." "i hear they can't afford tuition anymore." i always wonder what really happened. you slipped away, and you didn't leave a single clue as to where you went.

when i worked at tower records, jenny bird came into the store. she said, "guess who i've been hanging out with recently?" and i said, "who?" and she said, "shane and lucas! can you believe the two of them are buddies again? it's just like old times!" "really?" i said. i tried to act surprised. i was surprised. it's always been difficult for me to express emotions. i am afraid of looking stupid.

i pictured you guys at american river college, riding skateboards, smoking pot. shane working at zumies and taking pictures of himself with girls with big boobs. jenny dreaming of college and falling in love and starting a career and family. i hope that you are all still friends.

just like old times.
nothing's happening this morning.


"hello?"
"hi!"
"how are you?"
"i'm good. how are you?"
"i'm alright. i was just calling to say that i'm gonna be a little late today. none of the buses at my stop have been stopping to pick anyone up."
"oh no!"
"yeah. i was gonna wait about half an hour. maybe i'll be in at nine."
"well, i'm just now leaving my house. do you need me to do anything?"
"no. nothing's happening this morning. it should be fine."
"okay."
"alright. see you later."
"i'll see you later."
"bye."
"bye!"
up when you're across.


yesterday, lizzie, the work study girl in the dean's office, called me. "somebody dropped something off from wascla. should i just bring it on up?" "sure," i said, "that would be great." "okay," she said. "okay," i said, "thanks." a few minutes later, she showed up at my desk with a big binder in her hands. "i don't know why i said 'up,'" she said. "what?" i asked. "i don't know why i said 'up' when you guys are across." she motioned with her arms to illustrate what 'across' meant. "oh yeah," i said.
something to do with minorities.


my cousin amy, who lives in georgia, sent me a package filled with girl scout cookies. i decided to share them with my coworkers, so i brought some boxes into work. aileen, the work study girl, looked at the box of peanut butter cremes. "what's with all the girl scout cookies having something to do with minorities?" i looked at the peanut butter cremes, but saw nothing that had to do with minorities. "what are you talking about?" i asked. "like that one box, it says, 'tagalogs.'" i looked it up in a search engine. "they're called tag-a-longs," i said, "not tagalogs."
gotta love a man.


i was eating my egg salad sandwich at my desk. there was an older white lady sitting in the waiting area. suddenly, she looked at me and she said, "looks delicious." "it's not bad," i said. "gotta love a man that can cook!" she said.
don't be jealous.


on saturday, i was at h&m in the u-village. h&m is a clothing store for fashionable young people. i was wearing a green v-neck sweater, and i was holding a green plant meagan had bought for her grandmother's 80th birthday. i was sitting next to the mannequin in the window, and there was a girl nearby chatting on her phone.

the girl was half-asian or half-black, and she was too fabulous. she said things into her phone like, "do you remember that dress i wore when..." she walked past another woman who had a cell phone that glittered all kinds of different colors. "you have so much bling on your phone!" the half-asian/half-black girl said to the white woman. "don't be jealous," the white woman said.
following is better.


this weekend, i discovered the concept of following people on blogspot. it's much better than linking twelve bloggers (only three, maybe four of whom update consistently), clicking each one individually, then consequently getting disappointed because there's nothing new to read. now, i go to one location on my profile that shows all updates from everyone i follow.

it's the future.
the way pigeons come up.


the other day, jaspreet told me about this brazilian guy named augusto boal. augusto boal was this activist who worked with a group of actors, and they would go out into the community and talk with people about problems they were having. for example, this group would go talk with some poor farmers about a faulty irrigation system. they would role-play various scenarios with the farmers until the farmers could come up with plausible solutions.

when jaspreet told me about this, i immediately thought back to conversations i had with my parents when we were in the philippines. my parents were always talking about wanting to help the poor, and my dad would ask questions like, "why isn't anybody helping them?" after these conversations, we would go to sleep, and then the next day, we'd go out to eat, shop at another mall, and then go out to eat again. conversations about the poor only took place at night.

my dad always came across like he was blaming someone else for all the poverty. he'd ask questions like, "why aren't the rich doing anything?" and "how do you think that this can be fixed?" sometimes, he would make statements like, "i'll bet that we're probably the only people in this country talking about helping the poor." i felt that, in my dad's mind at least, talking about concepts such as social justice and equality was enough. sympathy was enough. my mom told me she dreamed she was dressed as an angel, and she was glowing, and all these naked filipino kids came running up to her, begging for money. she gave pesos to a few children, but then they overwhelmed her, "the way pigeons come up to me when i have food."

my parents seemed like they really wanted my input on all this. they might have been thinking, you went to that liberal arts school. you volunteered. what are the fucking answers, son? i told them my ideas. for one, nothing was ever going to change so long as we were afraid of the poor. i talked about this invisible barrier we had created, one where people with even just a little bit of money couldn't roll down their windows in traffic, for fear that the poor would just be able to stick their brown arms into the car and steal whatever they wished. at one point, i asked if it would be possible to walk through a slum. no, they said. totally out of the question.

i also said that if we weren't willing to donate, give handouts, or set up some sort of a charity, then what chance was there that anyone else was going to? the system is designed so that everyone thinks that he is poor. i've had friends, classmates, coworkers, teachers, and relatives all mention at some point how they are poor. some of them were/are actually broke and living off credit, but not everyone is poor. some are poorer than others, but there's no clear ranking system, so no one actually knows where he stands. thus, it becomes either, "i'm broke," or "i got this."

this brings up a whole other issue about definitions. what does it mean to be poor? what is social justice? i really hate it when the discussion devloves into semantics. sometimes, i feel like the school i work for would rather discuss the concept of social justice to death rather than put it into practice. who knows why? maybe they don't want to come across as too "liberal" or exclusive. maybe they don't want to look like socialists.

i'm interested in figuring out how i'm able to keep walking when i see a human body underneath a blanket on a cold february morning. or how i was able to turn my back on three filipino children, eating our scraps and drinking our leftover ice tea. "the poor you will have with you always," dr. smith would always say, quoting jesus. "you're just romanticizing the poor again," my friend told me, while watching slumdog millionaire. maybe i am, but i don't like to think i am. in truth, i think i'm just trying to figure out how many of us are able to live with ourselves.

my aunt has talked about wanting to set up a charity in the philippines. i told my cousin about this, as he is thinking about becoming a business major. already, he seemed jaded and sounded like he was ready to give up before we even got to seriously talking about it. ours is a generation of quitters, cynics, and complacent overanalyzers.

what is this reality we live in? our president signs a stimulus bill that's supposed to help fix the economy, but despite my college degree, i have no idea how it will actually work. a girl takes on thousands of dollars of school loans so that she can find a higher paying job that will pay off those school loans. a person with a ratty old blanket finds a nook somewhere in the city where he can sleep for the night. a ceo decides to outsource work so he can have just a little bit more. every three to five seconds, someone starves to death. young professionals go out for drinks and someone picks up the tab.

these days, the people on top are discussing hundreds of billions of dollars. do they have any idea how crazy they sound? maybe it sounds normal to most people, but to me, it sounds like we're back in the third grade and i'm betting lucas 900 billion dollars that i can spit farther than he can.
sarsparilla, or yet another post
about why it sucks being asian in america.


the first time i saw an asian onscreen was probably that asian kid who beat stephanie tanner in the spelling bee on an episode of full house. pretty white stephanie tanner couldn't spell sarsparilla, but of course, the asian kid remembered the silent 'r.' i remember being annoyed even then. why'd it have to be an asian kid who beat her? it was just perpetuating the stereotype that asian kids were smarter than white kids. i'm sure the producers of the show originally suggested a math-a-lon, but someone probably stepped up at some point and said, "uhh, how about a spelling bee instead?" people will argue that it's not a stereotype, but that it's actually a compliment. in any case, i won most of our class spelling bees in junior high. this made me hate that asian kid.

then there was data from the goonies, who also played short round in indiana jones and the temple of doom. i hated this kid, too, for the simple fact that he had an accent. the list went on: long duk dong in sixteen candles, toshiro takashi in revenge of the nerds, the ree brothers in better off dead. english, they no speak. i wanted to say, "hey hollywood, i speak perfect english! fucking cast me for a film!" what was up with that shit? i'd like to see the auditions they held back then. "this kid's really good," one person would say. "yeah, but so is his english. next!"

as a sidenote, i don't want to come across as though i hate asian people with accents. i really don't. what irritates me is how mainstream media continues to portray the same token asian/asian americans with accents, and rarely, if ever, showcase asian and asian-american individuals who speak english and have normal jobs that don't involve martial arts.

the stereotypes would just kept coming. e. honda from street fighter II with his cheap-ass hundred hand slap move. and his name was honda, for fuck's sake. why didn't they bother giving ryu a last name, too, like ryu kawasaki? and chun-li dim sum? the only asian character to ever appear on an episode of saved by the bell? a fucking nerd. johnny tran and lance, who shoot down the white, loveable geek in fast and the furious.

then, of course, there's everything jackie chan and jet li have ever done. once, jackie chan hosted saturday night live. my friend dong and i tried to watch the opening segment, but we couldn't finish it. "ugh," dong said, "it's like watching my uncle try to host." none of the skits were funny. what was truly painful about it, though, was the realization that the audience obviously wanted to laugh at his accent, but instead, they reserved it for the tragically unfunny punchlines.

in my ethics class in college, there was a loatian kid who had a thick accent. on the rare occassion that he would get the chance to voice his opinions, this small group of white boys would giggle to themselves. yes, i said college. and yes, i said ethics class. dr. painter and everyone else, myself included, just pretended like it didn't happen. it made me sick to think that even in a liberal college, one that supposedly stressed diversity and inclusion, this kind of shit went on. and of course, it still goes on. can't you hear the suppressed laughter?

things are better now, i guess. i mean, there was that movie motel, harold and kumar, and better luck tomorrow. i guess those should count for something. there was lane on the gilmore girls, and brian mcbrian got to fuck tibby in sisterhood of the traveling pants 2. still, it shouldn't have taken this long. last night, while talking to a friend, i came to realize why i enjoyed my recent trip to the philippines so much. "when i was there," i said, "i probably felt the way a white person must feel in the united states."
k.i.t., bitch!


"let's get some drinks."
"nah, that's okay."
"come on, man. just a little bit."
"no, i'm good."
"just take a sip. would you take a sip? it's not gonna kill you."
"alright, i'll take a sip."
"peer pressure, peer pressure, what does it do? squeezes the jesus right out of you!"
"hey, this is really good."
"see, i told you. if it's too strong, just pour some more coke."
"alright."
"i usually put more coke in mine. i just like to get a buzz."
"yeah, this is pretty good."
"idiot! always scared all the time. see! it's nothing."
"whoa. this is awesome."
"shoulda been doing this a long time ago."
"where's dong with the weed?"
"he's not comin'. he called and said he's doing something else."
"damnit!"
"you should call up your friends, man. we'll have a party."
"yeah. is that cool? can i invite some people over?"
"do whatever you want, man."
[calls] "hey, hey. can you come out tonight? why not? ahh, that sucks, dude. alright, forget it."
"who you callin'?"
"just my friend."
"call up some girls, man. don't make it a sausage fest."
"alright."
"hello? [indistinguishable mumbling]...yeah! k.i.t., bitch!"
"what the hell was that?"
"this girl i went to school with. she wrote "k.i.t." in my yearbook."
"you just called her a bitch?"
"yeah, but it was her voicemail."
"oh."
[whispering] "dude, he's digging his own grave."
"i know."
friday afternoon taro bubble tea.


on some fridays, the boss lady decides that we should meet to catch up on whatever. sometimes, i don't have anything work-related to talk about, and i let her know this. "it doesn't matter," she'll say. she just likes leaving the office, since her office doesn't have a window. i like leaving the office, too, so i agree. we go to chatterbox, a little bubble tea place, and we each order a taro (japanese root) bubble tea. it's okay. it's not my favorite drink in the world, but it's better than drinking nothing while sitting at my desk.

she went into this whole thing about how her husband doesn't have many guy friends. and when he's with the few guy friends he has, he doesn't act like himself around them. "what do you mean?" i asked. "he'll just always be so jokey with them. like they can't have a real conversation about anything." "can you give an example?" i asked. "well, sometimes, he'll just be talking to his friend, and his friend will ask, 'how's work going?' and he'll be like, 'oh, it's great. wonderful. i love it.' they can't seem to ever talk seriously with each other." "so," i said, "they're just always sarcastic and stuff?" "yeah," she said, "total sarcasm."

i admitted to her that that was how guys work. "that's sort of how it is with my guy friends," i said, "and my cousins who are guys. we'll quote movies and have a lot of inside jokes." "yeah, what is that?" she said, obviously frustrated. "this one time, my husband and i took a road trip with one of his good friends, and they were just talking complete nonsense the whole time. after we dropped his friend off, he asked me, 'are you okay? you were so quiet back there.' i told him, 'i had no idea what the hell you guys were talking about! how could i join the discussion when i couldn't even understand what the hell you were saying?' he got kind of defensive, and he was like, 'what are you talking about?'"

my boss is indian, and she told me about how she moved to india when she was in her mid-twenties. "i just remember there was one night, it was like in june, i woke up drenched in sweat. it was seriously too hot to sleep, and the power went out, so there was no air-conditioning or even a fan. the girl i was living with told me that we should go up to the roof, where it would be cooler. we went up there, and it wasn't that much cooler, but still, we could at least put our faces to the marble and cool down a little bit that way. this was in the middle of the night, and she had an exam in like three hours that morning.

"i asked her, 'how the hell do you do this?' and she was like, 'do what?' and i said, 'study and go to school without electricity or any sort of physical comfort?' she just laughed at me. i must've looked like such a spoiled american, because she just shrugged and said, 'we do this all the time.' and she was serious. the power went out at least six or seven times a week when i was there. it was crazy. and i thought about how, just the year before that, i was at n.y.u., typing papers in the privacy of my dorm room. i could turn on the heat when i was cold, and turn on the a.c. when it was hot. so many things we take for granted."
most likely to stalk a girl pop star.


when i was a freshman in high school, i bought ...baby one more time. it's time to admit that. i remember watching britney's video in my bedroom. i remember thinking, it's about time somebody capitalized on the whole catholic school girl outfit. i mean, it was '98. what the fuck took them so long? my eyes were glued to the screen every time that stupid video aired. give me a break, i was fourteen.

it really wasn't my thing. i had already grown accustomed to my set rotation of hard rock, whiny and alternative bands. i wasn't supposed to buy a sugary pop record about love and shit. there's a song called "email my heart" for christ's sake. i remember standing near the counter, though, at dimple records, with the cd in my hand. "are you really gonna do it?" my cousin asked me. "yeah," i said. i knew i hadn't been brainwashed, but i felt like i had been brainwashed. i had to own that album.

i played the album a lot, especially when my friends were around, as i knew it annoyed the shit out of them. they were already sick of me playing my punk and whiny rock records, now i was taking it to a whole new, horribly irritating level. "she's hot," one friend would say, "but that doesn't mean i have to listen to it." "what the fuck is this?" another friend said, "this is stupid! turn this shit off!" it sort of became a new thing, and i slightly enjoyed it. even at fourteen, i liked pushing the envelope, seeing how much my friends would be able to deal with.

it didn't end with britney. all throughout high school, i bought just about every girl pop record i could find: m2m, the a-teens, dream, you name it - even some obscure girl pop band i found in the dollar bin at amoeba, a band called the pump girls who sang about diabetes. b*witched was my favorite, and i was mesmerized by their hit song, "c'est la vie." i knew it was wrong for a boy my age to like such nonsense, but i think that knowing that it was wrong just made me get even more into it.

i even went and saw a lot of these groups with megan, the only friend who wasn't too embarrassed to accompany me. she liked the music, too, i think, but probably she liked the absurdity that i was more into girl pop than she was. by then, i was seventeen, and i had a b*witched t-shirt. i wore it to an all (pop punk band) concert once. at the all show, some random girl asked me, "are you wearing that as a joke, or because you really like them?" it was a mixture of both, but really, my life was the joke, so i said, "i really like them."

things reached a whole new level of weirdness when my friends george and pete bought me the dolls of these pop stars. at the time, i was into collecting toys, stuff like x-men and simpsons figurines, so when these dolls came out, they bought them for me. i can't imagine what my family must've thought when i opened up them on christmas eve. imagine a seventeen year-old kid opening up his christmas presents, and suddenly, he's holding a britney spears doll, sporting her catholic school girl outfit. and then the plastic lynch twins all covered in denim.

i taped a b*witched performance on the disney channel once. when my friend dong came over, i made him watch it. he must've been stoned out of his mind because he sat through the whole thing. he didn't complain or ask why i was into something so stupid. the only comment he made was during the song "rollercoaster." "i could never do that," he said. "do what?" i asked. at that point the girls had gotten into a straight line and moved from side to side, extending their arms, as though they were riding a real rollercoaster. "dance like that," he said, "and just look hella happy." now that i think about it, he had to have been stoned.

what a joke i had been to people who knew little about me. in high school, my "most likely to..." was written as: most likely to stalk a girl pop star. part of my senior quotation was: "i know we're gonna get there someday," by b*witched. when my friend jeff read it in the yearbook, he said, "man, you really don't give a shit, do you?" it was the biggest compliment i got in high school, and i was pretty proud of myself. "no," i said, "i really don't." most of my classmates quoted some poet or philosopher. how fucking original.

by the time i got to college, though, i realized i had to grow up and put away such foolish things. i sold the girl pop albums, donated the dolls, and all the britney posters came down. was it just another thing i did to make myself look weird, to alienate myself from my friends even more? was i so unhappy that i actually enjoyed hearing over-the-top, radio-friendly pop songs? was it just another case of sex selling itself?

sometimes, i just don't know, man. i don't know what the hell i've been doing.
chemo lynnwood busfare.


on the corner of pike and broadway, white dude comes up to me and goes, "hey, can i ask you a question?" automatically, i assume he wants money. i prefer the straightforward dudes who just ask, "spare any change?" to which i reply (honestly), "no, i don't." a few years ago, i decided to stop carrying cash. it seemed pointless, since so many stores now accept debit/credit cards. plus, maybe it's the o.c.d. in me, but money is just dirty. i don't like carrying around people's germs in my pockets all day.

it's funny how in life, everyone seems to go through various phases when it comes to confronting beggars. in the beginning, it's pretty easy to give in and just say, "yeah, here's a couple of bucks." as a child, i was irritated whenever an adult or some other authoritative figure would say, "you never know what they're going to spend it on. they might just buy alcohol or drugs with that money." so, as time went on, this idea started to stick. i learned to say the one word that summed up my rejection: "sorry."

i no longer had to say, "no, i don't have any change," or "no, because you'll probably just buy booze with it," or "no, get away from me." all i had to say was, "sorry." that's probably the number one word most beggars get as a response. so, this guy came up to me today on the corner of pike and broadway, and he said, "can i ask you a question?" i reluctantly said, "yeah." just once, i'd like to be asked if i could be asked a question by a random stranger and have it relate to something other than directions or money. "do these pants make me look fat?" "can you believe it's a sunny day in february?" "why did obama have to send more troops to afghanistan?"

instead, the kid started off with, "so, my girlfriend is undergoing chemo in lynnwood, and i got dropped off in seattle, and now i just need bus fare to get to lynnwood." i couldn't really make sense of what he was saying. i picked up the "chemo," "lynnwood," and "bus fare." then he held out his hand and said he only had $0.78. "sorry," i said, "but i don't have any cash." "do you have any change?" "no," i said. as i crossed the street, he gave me a long disappointed look. it was a look that said, you heartless bastard. my girlfriend is going through chemo in lynnwood and you can't spare a dollar for the bus!

obviously, i'd feel really bad if his girlfriend was going through chemo and he really needed bus fare to go be with her. but somehow, somewhere along the way, i've started assuming that all these people are liars. maybe it's just a part of growing old, assuming that strangers are no longer capable of telling the truth. i mean, with the constant news reports about scammers, fraud, and corruption, how is an individual supposed to have faith in the average dude who's down on his luck?

once, there was a white girl downtown asking for change. i was with my friend, who is also a white girl, and after we passed her, my friend said, "i used to sympathize with them, but now i'm just like, 'get a job! go work at jack in the box or something.' i mean, they hire people who don't even speak english!" she felt that she was being offensive or conservative or whatever, but i said that i agreed. it's probably wrong to think this way, but shouldn't young, non-crazy, able-bodied white individuals be able to land jobs in a supposedly liberal, affluent city like seattle?

well, maybe not these days. still, i really don't have any change on me. swear to god.
dancing with the ghost-lady.


the old man stayed up late, smoking dope in his house. usually, at that hour, there was nothing good on any of the three channels that came in clearly, so he smoked enough until even the most simple things, like a news report about a convenience store burning down, became interesting. he'd sit in the comfortable recliner, the one his ex-wife begged him to get rid of, and the littlest stories would get his imagination running. how could a little fire burn down a whole store? what will become of the owner and all of his possessions? i wonder if the firemen ever pocket things they find at a scene. maybe i will burn one day. i wonder how long i could sit here, watching television, enduring the flames.

suddenly, the doorbell rang, giving him quite a startle. he had almost forgotten that he had ordered pizza. the delivery boy was a dark-skinned kid who wore a blue hat with a red brim. "what do i owe you?" the old man said. "eighteen seventy-five," the kid said. "jesus," the old man said. he pulled out his wallet and handed over a twenty. as old as he was, he still had no idea how to tip. "thanks," the kid said, and he walked back to his car. the car was an old white corolla with a huge dent on the side.

the old man put his pizza on the table and turned off the tv. at some point, he had decided no tv while eating. but music was okay. he put neil young's harvest on the turntable, and poured himself a glass of wine while "unknown legend" played nearly full blast. he sang the first few lines: she used to work in a diner/never saw a woman look finer/i used to order just to watch her float across the floor. he couldn't remember the rest of it, so he just hummed along. when he tired of humming, he just sat there and took it all in. what a song, he thought to himself. what a hell of a good goddamn song.

he took turns between the pizza, the wine and the pipe. soon, he realized he was pretty full, drunk and high. he never thought that he would turn out to be this way, like some old character straight out of a bukowski poem. he thought back to his childhood, to old friends and lovers who had either died or moved away. he had never moved away. he thought about it briefly, before college, but the thought had eventually dissapeared like so many other dreams and goals he once held for himself. he regretted nothing. at least that's what he told himself.

"dreaming man" came on the stereo, and he felt the sudden urge to get up and move around. he began to pace back and forth in front of the coffee table. it suddenly occurred to him that passersby could see him through the windows, and that they might think he was crazy. well, if they're watching, i'd better give them a real show. he started to dance a little bit. first, he swayed his head from side to side, and then his hips got into it. he outstretched his arms like someone was really there, somebody dancing with him. it became much more formal, like he was in a ballroom doing some professional dancing. he was dancing and having the time of his life with the ghost-lady.

he danced half-way through "natural beauty" when he realized he was out of breath. he sat back down on the recliner, his chest heaving. "what the hell," he said aloud. "what in the hell was that?"
you are a real self-starter.


it's gotten to the point in the gig again when people ask me if i'm busy and i say "yes" even though the real answer is "no." this seems to happen at every non-retail job i've ever worked. it'd be perfectly fine if it wasn't for the catholic guilt, as i'd sit at my desk and stream tv shows all day. but at some point, i have to admit to myself, "this is going nowhere. my life is going nowhere." i suppose that a person has to find things to busy himself with, or else be a real self-starter and get new projects launched off the ground. i'm not that kind of person.

if it wasn't for blogging, i'd really have nothing to do. at all. i would probably end up staring at outlook, the way i sometimes catch my coworker staring at hers. i wonder sometimes what goes through her head. she hasn't made any mention of going back to school or finding a new job or anything. from what i can tell, she just wants to go home and do nothing. i spent a whole year at home doing nothing, and i thought it was awful. but now that i spend eight hours in an office doing nothing, i actually kind of look forward to going home and doing nothing.
tell me how it ends already.


i write lazy email responses to people i used to know.

i've written out rent checks through august. right now, there are five of them marked, "april, may, june, july, august," and they are just sitting here, waiting to be mailed.

most of the time, i'd like to fast-forward through a lot of things. it's all becoming this so-so movie i don't really want to sit through. something like the movie sleepers, which i was too impatient and uninterested to finish, so i just had my cousin tell me how it ended.

over the weekend, jacob linked me to a funny blog called asian failure. it's a lot funnier than stuff white people like, but then again, so are most things.

emily had this theory that the economic crisis could all be bullshit. and since i don't know anything about how the business world works, she might be onto something.

i read this poem on the bus today. it was called "stick of incense" and it went:
i blow you out,
little friend.
for you serve me better as ember,
than flame.

i packed my shorts and a pair of socks, in an attempt to convince myself to go to the gym after work. "on a scale of one to ten," my coworker emily said, "how convinced are you that you'll actually go?" "right now," i said, "six."

i have weird encounters with the other program assistant in the other office. it's all because she brought up that story once about the broken clock. now, i feel compelled to say something, even though i don't want to. "hey," i said. "good morning, how are you?" she said. "okay," i said.

i figure, if they're going to isolate us with computers and cubicles, we might as well act that way.
recipe for a black hole.


when i'm in seattle, i wish i was in california. when i'm in california, i wish i was somewhere else.

i'd like a job that demands the use of my brain, or else my body.

i miss family get-togethers, even though i should've had my fill last year.

i understand now why you come home from work, and are too unmotivated to do anything. comcast stays king.

i am doing what all adults my age are supposed to be doing: renting an apartment, going to work, hanging out with peers. so why does it still feel off?
misandrist? genius!


"you're a good role model for your cousin," my fifth grade teacher, ms. edwards, once told me. i was only a good role model because i got good grades and did what i was told, that's why she said this to me. there were no male teachers at my elementary school, not until mr. whalen arrived to teach us english part-time. mr. whalen was an idiot. he was a soft-spoken blonde boy who wore flannel shirts and didn't know the difference between a gerund and participle without having to first look it up in the book. he was creepy, too, the way he would look at the girls.

there was also dan, the extended program director, who substituted sometimes when our school apparently couldn't find a real sub. dan, too, was an idiot. he had long blonde hair that he kept in a ponytail and he tried to tell us about how he loved the works of aristotle. we were in sixth grade, so we didn't know (and didn't care) who aristotle was. he reminded me of the hippie on the beavis and butthead show, the guy who sang that song about lesbian seagulls.

then there was sal the barber, who still (as far as i know) works at rosemont haircutters. he had a busty blonde daughter who dressed like a prostitute, and she also cut hair with him. sal would drink on the job, and the last time he cut my hair, he was really loaded. i just wanted my whole head shaved, and he made really inappropriate remarks, stuff like, "that's how all the ladies love it - to tickle their breasts with!" his daughter just rolled her eyes, as if to say, "oh, dad, you're so out of control!"

there was also my junior high basketball coach, troy. during one game, in which we were down by about 20 - 30 points, he had nothing to say to us. "i have nothing to say to you guys. it's pathetic." thanks, coach. i can't remember how the rest of the game played out, though i'm sure we ended up losing by a lot more.

i finally had male teachers in high school. there was mr. andre, who taught latin, and mr. pell, who taught theology. there was mr. moulton for geometry, and mr. hastie for p.e. they were all white guys, and i guess, to some extent, i viewed them as "the man," authority figures i couldn't relate to. i suppose that they all meant well. they showed up for work, they didn't drink (at least not on the job), and for the most part, they seemed to care about their wives, their family, their god, their country. i didn't know who they were, though. i could've asked, but i didn't.

the only non-white teacher i had in high school was mrs. ellis. she was a black woman, and she kept us kids in line. she didn't hand out bullshit assignments, and she seemed to be a real person. once, after a white woman came to our school and told us all about how she worked in an inner-city school and saw all the gang violence, and how she hugged grieving black people at "funeral after funeral," mrs. ellis called her out. "i just don't believe that woman would really be holding and crying with all those black people she was talking about." a white student tried to object, but mrs. ellis stood her ground. "i've been to those funerals," mrs. ellis said, cutting him off. "i just don't see it happening."

there were more male teachers when i got to college. there were professors brown and green, and professor nichols. more white men over 50. they were all smart men, sure, but i knew nothing about their worlds. i knew that professor green lived on some remote island with his wife, and they had an old printing press. i knew professor green would sometimes host the ireland trip. i knew professor nichols had a weakling for a kid, some poor pre-teen with a rat's tail.

i had one non-white male teacher in college, and he was only a visiting professor. he was filipino-american, and a decent writer. as the course progressed, though, he seemed to no longer care. we showed up for class once, and he said, "i don't have anything for you today. go out. go write." we left class, supposedly to "go write," but instead, i went back to my apartment and slept. i wanted to sleep and sleep and forget that every person i was supposed to look up to as a potential role model had let me down.

while working for nonprofits and volunteering through americorps, i found that the only other guys were white "liberals" who felt entitled enough that they didn't have to pitch in for things like pizza or offer their cars up for carpooling purposes. they also possessed otherworldly knowledge and had to disagree (or else discuss to death) with just about every point someone else would make, no matter how trivial.

so, why is it that everyone knows the word "misogynist" but not "misandrist?" in my experience, we've clearly been the losing team.
everyday is different.


the person who is one day gonna replace me at work is gonna have to interview for it. she (let's face it - ain't no men into social justice administrative support) is going to ask me to describe a typical day at work. i'll feed her the usual bullshit line: "well, everyday is different..." but really, everyday is the same. it goes a little something like this:

7:00 a.m. - alarm goes off
7:12 a.m. - after hitting the snooze three times, i get up
7:12 - 7:32 a.m. - shower/get dressed
7:32 a.m. - bowl of cereal with soy milk
7:37 a.m. - 7:53 a.m. - brush teeth/make lunch
7:54 a.m. - waiting at the bus stop
7:55 a.m. - 8:27 a.m. - bus ride, #9, my apt. to seattle u.
8:30 a.m. - 9:00 a.m. - bathroom break/check gmail/check other blogs (if monday, read postsecret)/read other news articles/check bank account
9:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m. - check work email while gchatting
10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. - still gchatting, printing things out for people, playing with excel sheets & word documents, still answering emails
12:00 p.m. - get mail for entire office (favorite part of day - maybe i'll be a mailman for a summer), sort it, place in appropriate boxes
12:10 p.m. - walk to qfc, get groceries, get lunch
12:42 p.m. - eat lunch at desk
12:42 p.m. - 4:33 p.m. - more of the same: gchat, read blogs, print stuff out, play with excel sheets & word documents, respond to emails
4:39 p.m. - catch the #9 home

i'll totally play it up. "it really a great experience," i'll say. "the work is important, and the best part is, you're helping out students." "and what do you find the most rewarding?" she might ask. "well," i''ll say, "i really like getting the mail and putting it in each person's box. i don't know why, but i do. oh, i also like it when pretty girls walk by my desk, and they smell like candy." "and what do you find the most challenging?" "umm, sometimes i hate it when really arrogant guys who feel they're entitled to everything demand things. but really, you won't have to deal with them. that's emily's job." and if i could be honest, who knows. she just might take it.

it's funny though, this thing called work. you lie on your way in, and you lie on your way out.
newsflash: this isn't news.


this morning, my friend linked me to last night's joaquin phoenix interview on letterman. phoenix came off as a complete ass or lunatic or whatever. some say he was on drugs, and others say it was all just a big publicity stunt. the thing that bothers me the most is that even if it was just a publicity stunt, or if he was really serious about being a terrible rapper instead of a so-so actor, either way, it's all being videotaped, which means it's going to be released, which means that it's going to make millions of dollars. it's basically the equivalent of an actor taking a fat dump, videotaping it, and then subsequently winning the oscar for best documentary.

it's kind of like the lady with the octuplets. currently, she's accused of being a total moron for undergoing fertilization treatments so she could have a total of fourteen kids. she doesn't have a job or any source of income, and she lives with her parents. she probably thought that by having fourteen kids, she could have her own reality show, or book deal, or receive help from the government. she's even set up a website that begs for donations. most likely, she'll get everything she ever hoped for.

because our country is a stupid one, and its populace rewards its citizens accordingly.
did you order one?


there's this old man who works in i.t. and he's grouchy all the time. he's quite a miserable man. "reminds me of harvey pekar," i told my co-worker, emily. she laughed. "yeah, but not as entertaining," she said. he walks around the school always looking annoyed. he might just have to do a small task - like set up a projector or something - and it seems to kill him every time. in december, he won a staff award. i suppose he won because he's been here for so long, or maybe it's because no one else received a single nomination.

i try to steer clear of all tech folk in general. they seem to have formed some sort of impenetrable clique, and they look down upon non-tech-savvy newbies like myself. "do the people in i.t. freak you out?" i asked emily. "yeah," she said, "but they're probably more scared of you than you are of them." i mean, i'm a pretty anti-social guy here at the school. i don't make an effort to visit other people at their desks or stop to chit-chat in the hallway. hell, i didn't even go to my own birthday party (it's a monthly thing, so not really a big deal).

but still, i have the decency to say, "hello," rather than just start something off mid-sentence. i smile, and even if the smile is phony, i do it. i look people in the eye, nod my head, do whatever needs to be done to recognize another person's existence. but it seems that those basic common courtesies and societal standards don't apply to people who play with red and yellow wires all day long. they are exempt from having to interact with other human beings at a normal level.

today, i had to set up some pizzas and sodas for an event. i noticed that the table which is normally at the back of the room wasn't there. "umm, is there gonna be a table?" i asked the i.t. guy. "you order one? did you order one?" the i.t. guy snorted. he seemed to be laughing to himself, as if to say, how in the hell did you expect a table to appear if you didn't order one? what are you, some kind of a retard? i couldn't wait to get out of there. "i don't remember," i said. the fact of the matter is, there's no specifications for ordering extra tables on the new online form. event staff already knows that if there's gonna be a shitload of food in the courtroom, there'd better be a goddamn table there to host that shitload of food, too.

i went to the elevator, and the events guy was already standing there with the table. "is that going to the courtroom?" i asked. "yeah," he said. what a good guy. even though he, too, hates his job, he doesn't use it as an excuse to treat other people like idiots.
just like real live po' folk.


i read some cnn stories while at work today. normally, i hate myself for reading cnn, but sometimes, i just want to feel like i know some things about the world. today, there were three consecutive cnn stories about economic hardships. one was about how the only jobs available in some indiana town were for strippers. another was about how illegal immigrants have been leaving the u.s. and the third was about how military recruitment had gone up. my co-worker, emily, pointed out that there was another story at the bottom of the page which read: "swimsuit models wear nothing but paint." "i like to think that it's still because of our shitty economy, and that they just couldn't afford clothes," she said.

i heard that the state of california has issued "furlough" days for all state employees. basically, the employees don't work the first and third fridays of the month. sounds nice, except they don't get paid for those days off. my aunt and uncle, both state workers, are feeling this, as their daughter just entered her first year at a costly private high school. meanwhile, another cnn story revealed that the governator is threatening to cut 20,000 more state jobs.

i got an email today from another staff member at the law school, and the email said something about how the state was trying to eliminate work-study positions for non-residents in washington. i didn't really read it, as i am not a work-study student, and i don't care, but still, it's pretty shitty. non-residents obviously have to pay more for tuition, and i mean, come on. $8.75 an hour, part-time? washington, you really can't spare that for out-of-towners these days? maybe i didn't read it right. i have a tendency to skim headlines and think that the rest of it is full of shit.

as i was reading depressing article after depressing article, i almost found it comical how ridiculously bad things have gotten. all the greed, the corruption, and incompetence just poured on thick. and every once in a while, i read this article about how some family affected by the economic shitstorm is learning to cope. ever since the father (the male is always the breadwinner in these stories) lost his job at wherever, the family has had to really make some sacrifices. they no longer watch cable tv, and the kids can't play the latest and greatest video games. the mom cuts coupons and her children's hair. they don't go out to eat as much.

those are considered sacrifces in this great country of ours. i mean, aren't people supposed to be living like this anyway, crisis or no crisis? "i lost my job, kids. the cable's gotta go." "aww, dad, can't you just get a new job?" "not these days, son. i'll probably have to deliver pizzas for $10 an hour, as opposed to the $80,000 i brought home every year." how come none of these economic horror stories ever point out the obvious, that way too many people have been living way beyond their means for way too fucking long? downward mobility, living simply - these terms aren't in the american vocabulary.

my uncle, who works for at&t, will be "retiring" this summer. he's actually being forced into early retirement, as his managerial position will soon be made obsolete. my mom's planning on retiring at the end of this month. this was actually her decision, as she has been unhappy working at the hospital for a while now. she will be sixty-two tomorrow. she has worked as a nurse for a good portion of her life, and the money she will receive from retirement and social security will not be very much. my dad is planning on quitting soon, too. having worked only (only?) ten years as a custodian at uc davis, he'll collect much less than my mom.

you work and work and save as much as you can. in the end, will it have been worth it?
wanting to do something else.


now that i'm here, now that i've made it, i wish that i was in the backyard pulling up rocks, or else trimming the trees and rose bushes. my pile of rocks and slabs of cement are still sitting there, red and gray, resting against the fence. on the other side of the yard, the compost pile sits there, too, and my parents have admitted that they don't contribute. i'd like to be outdoors, moving around, doing something productive, even if it's not that productive.

men are taught instead to use their minds. using one's mind leads to more money. it leads to fancy titles like "chair" and "executive." nobody wants to be a laborer. that's grunt work. better to be a lazy intellectual, is basically what's agreed upon. study hard, work hard, but we're not actually talking "work" work - that is, work in the physical sense. no, it means read and retain information and be prepared to summarize that information for other people to more easily digest.

why is climbing the corporate ladder so looked down upon by lefty liberals when climbing the academic ladder is the norm? what's the difference? how far apart are academia and the acquisition of money? education is big business, some say. teachers say, go to school to get a good job. what should i do with my life? god forbid i enjoy it. no one will ever just say, enjoy it. instead, they'll say, you could always go back to school. don't know what to do with your life, eh? just get a masters. a ph.d. if you're really uncertain.

this tall black man just walked in talking about how he's an alumni, and how he's got three investors waiting on him. he said that he works in the columbia tower with web developers and contractors. he didn't make a whole lot of sense. he was a lot like those old school writers, philosophers and thinkers who had to create a new language to convey complex and advanced ideas. the kind of people who have to talk over and above the common man's head so that they could impress those who need to be impressed, dine with others who have acquired advanced degrees and waterfront homes.

if i work hard enough, maybe one day i, too, can join them.
boy with the blue hat.


i've got this picture of this kid with a blue hat tipped ever so slightly to the side. i don't know who he is, but i could probably take a guess. he tips his hat to the side because he thinks it's cool, that it's stylish. he does not think that other people think he looks like a moron for wearing his hat like that, and anyway, he does not care what other people think of him. the blue hat has a yellow and red star. he does not know what the star signifies. it's a skater hat, but he's not a skater. that probably makes him a poser, but he would never think himself a poser. a poser is someone who tries to be someone he is not. the kid is not trying to be anyone but himself.

this kid goes to seattle university wearing his blue hat with the red and yellow star. he still wears his hat tipped ever so slightly to the side. he goes into pigott auditorium, where a man will take his picture with a big, black camera. the kid waits in line with other incoming freshmen. he feels out of place. most kids seem to have already made friends with each other, as they are talking about things. there are lots of pretty girls in the line with the kid, but he doesn't make an effort to talk to any of them. the kid just stands there, and he waits in line for his turn.

finally, he reaches the front of the line, and it is time for the man to take the kid's picture. the man does not say anything about removing his hat for the photo, so the kid just leaves it on. the cameraman says, "smile!" and the kid does just that. he is a grinning idiot. he thinks that he will make friends who will last him a lifetime, find a girl who will like him. he is happier than ever, for he is now in a new city. he is glad to be far, far away from the crappy, crappy town he grew up in, the town he always knew he'd leave. he must feel hopeful, though he doesn't quite know it at the time. click. "all done," the cameraman says.

he walks past the line of freshmen, including all the pretty girls. he has forgotten what it's like to be around so many women. all of them are dressed nice. they wear colorful blouses, earrings, bracelets and headbands, just the way he imagined girls his age would dress. he does not make eye contact with any of them. he's still a virgin, you see, and he does not know if it is still normal and acceptable to be one at his age. at the time, he knows nothing of love, and he is rather unsure if such a thing is even in the cards for him, so to speak.

he knows of sex, however. he knows it because they taught it to him at school. he understood the basic mechanics of how things worked, and he also had plenty of visual supplements. like most boys his age, he had collected his fair share of maxim magazines, and the likes of jenna jameson and taylor hayes were no strangers to him. sex was and would probably always remain a complex thing for the kid. on one hand, he was embarassed to talk about it with other people in a mature and responsible fashion; on the other hand, he wasn't sure if it would ever even be a real issue.

from there, the boy probably returned to his dorm room in bellarmine. throughout that first year, he probably had his ups and downs like any other freshman. he probably missed home, but dreaded going back to it. he probably ate a lot of ice cream and drank too much soda for his own good. he smoked weed whenever the guy across the hall could hook it up. he probably threw up once in a blue moon after drinking too much alcohol. he read books and he would complain whenever he had too much homework. once in a while, he would blow up and yell at people. he might've had anger management issues, but who can really tell.

after a while, the kid stopped wearing the blue hat. he realized he looked foolish. nothing seemed to work. he didn't know it then, but he actually had to make an effort to do things which he thought came more easily to others, things like making friends and falling in love. defeated, he retreated home for the summer and thought about where all of this was going. did he really have his whole life ahead of him? did he know what he wanted in life?

i don't know what became of the kid. or the hat. i hope he's alright now.
i heard that shit back in january.


remember the good old days when you could just tell someone about a band, and if that person hadn't yet heard of that band, he would take a listen, and if he liked it, he would say something cordial, something like, "thanks for introducing me to this band. if you had not told me about them, i probably would not have listened to them. they are a great band, and i will listen to them often. thanks again." for most cynics in their twenties who have more or less followed the "indie" circuit long enough, those days are long gone. maybe not for everyone, but for a lot of us, they are.

these days, it seems that an individual can't even talk about music anymore. maybe i'm just imagining it, but it's as though some unspoken rule has emerged where a person can't even say, "have you heard of so-and-so?" my cousin rich once asked his friend george if he had yet heard the new pleasure forever album. george, who still currently serves as a prime example of a music nazi/elitist, responded with, "of course. i heard that shit back in january." it's impossible to try and get someone like george to listen to a new band, nevermind like a new band. he falls under the category of people who are drive to find all music on their own, and thus make it their own.

george had to be the first, and he had to be the only one into such obscure music that he started listening to stuff like squarepusher and lightning bolt. rich told me about it, and he said that george was so into this idea of being obscure and hip that he couldn't even put on a regular lightning bolt record. no, george preferred lightning bolt b-sides. rich often jokes about this need for obscurity, this desire to be the only one in the know, that often he makes this recurring joke that he can't just buy the artist's record - instead, it has to be the "japanese imported b-sides and outtakes remixed mash-up record."

the music nazis have made listening to any music difficult. meagan and i were at sonic boom once, and she was thinking about buying the anniversary's your majesty, as it was on sale for only $2.99. "would it not be cool for me to buy this?" i said that i didn't know. eli, the ultimate hipster clerk who also had graduated from seattle u, said to her, "i like that cd a lot. it's still a great album." she ended up buying it.

the last time i went record shopping with my cousin rich, we were at rasputin's in stockton. he wanted to buy a record that the actress zooey deschanel had just released, but he had forgotten her band's name. he was hesitant to ask any of the clerks, saying that he "didn't want to be one of those guys." i knew what he was talking about. we both used to be record store clerks at tower, and it didn't matter what band any customer was asking about. it could've been something lame like p.o.d., or something we actually enjoyed, like sigur ros. the mental response was always, i can't believe you're fucking buying/asking about that, or jesus, am i really lame now because i listen to the same bands as this douchebag? it wasn't good. in record store land, at least from our perspective, it was better if no one ever asked about anything, or purchased anything for that matter.

but when we were shopping at rasputin's that day, i was older, wiser, less cynical, less afraid of looking uncool. after all, i had spent the entire year living at home and not working. i had saved up enough change and sold enough of my belongings on craigslist that i could afford to buy myself a new record that i had been thinking about buying for many, many months beforehand. i walked up to the register and put down my sealed copy of the magnetic fields' distortion on vinyl. "do you happen to know what zooey deschanel's band is called?" i asked. the super hip asian female clerk didn't even look up. "she and him," she said.

i don't know why this should concern me. it's just strange how warped our idea of music and sense of cool has become. i wonder where the super elitists are at this point. the kind of people who probably have already seen the pains of being pure at heart at least three times before the rest of us discovered them through pitchfork's favorable review of their latest self-titled record. maybe the super elite don't even read record reviews - they're just that cool. maybe they think that the pains of being pure at heart sucks because shoegazing is over and retro is dead, and who wants to listen to another stupid band that sounds exactly like the jesus and mary chain or my bloody valentine?

my cousin byron often tells me how he hates that all his friends listen to mainstream rap and r&b, stuff like ne-yo and rhianna and - i don't know, whoever's poppin' these days. he himself enjoys the animal collective, los campesinos, etc. he tells me, too, how sometimes he'll play music he likes for his friends, and they'll tell him they don't like it. he tries and tries to get them to listen to bands that he likes, and almost every time, they tell him they don't like it. john has told me a similar story. he told me once how he brought in m.i.a.'s kala and a peter bjorn and john record to listen to at school. he played it for his classmates, and they didn't like it. months later, however, they were all listening to those same albums. this infuriated him.

when did people get so uppity about the music they listen to? why do people always want others to listen to bands only they seem to know and care about, but then when everybody's listening to it, when feist's "1, 2, 3, 4" is on every ipod commercial, or when seth cohen mentions death cab for cutie on the o.c., the music stops being cool? maybe because things are so much more accessible now with the likes of youtube, playlist, pandora, amazon, facebook, etc., it's becoming harder and harder to be the only one who's in the know.

i wanted to be in the know, so i used to collect cds. i would latch onto bands, and then i would buy up their whole discography. if a friend already owned the cd, it didn't matter that i could just borrow it, or copy it. i had to have my very own copy, complete with album artwork, insert, the whole package. everything. and then when the deluxe edition was released, along with its bonus tracks and music videos, i had to buy that, too. it became an obsession, something to do with one's life. that's what people say to do when you're bored or unhappy, right? get a hobby, collect something.

i was at urban outfitters the other day, and i saw this little notebook that had the design of a nintendo controller on the cover. i looked at it for a while, wondering if there was ever going to be anything original ever again. i browsed some of the books they had for sale. there was the stuff white people like book, and the i can haz cheezburger book. i was pretty pissed off that these things were for sale, that people actually bought these things and put them on their coffee tables and thought that they're funny.

the following morning, aileen, the work study girl, looked at my bag (the one that looks like a big blue cassette), and she said, "that's a nice bag. it's very hipster," she said. "i got it in the philippines," i said. "that's even more hipster," she said, "to actually have stuff from another country." i told her that i was at urban outfitters the night before, and i said that i was turned off by all the blogs that had been made into books. she asked me why. the truth is, it's because my blog hasn't been turned into one yet, but of course, i didn't say that. "i just don't feel like we can have anything original anymore. everything is either wannabe vintage or it's a self-parody..." "did you just hate everything you saw there?" "yeah," i said, "but even hating those things (what's trendy and considered "hip") is a cliche in itself." she laughed. "you should start a blog," she said. "it should be called a cliche within a cliche. don't you think that's good?"

"yeah," i said, sarcastically. there was no stopping it.
so, this is what you do now.


right now at seattle u, there is a job fair happening. i never went to a single job fair when i was an undergrad. i didn't really see the point. i could barely talk to girls, so how was i gonna talk to a potential employer? maybe the former still is more difficult, no matter what the scenario is. i suppose that professors told us to go to these job fairs, but i never listened. as an english major, i was above all that. i was above making money and "selling out" to "the man." we were much braver then, weren't we?

the first and only time i went to a seattle u job fair was when i already had a job (if you can call it that) as a volunteer recruiter for the american red cross. the fact that they sent me as their sole representative should already speak volumes about their incompetency. actually, i didn't want to go alone, so i asked if jordan, another volunteer, could come with me. she didn't have anything going on that day anyway. together, we packed up the american red cross banner, some random brochures, and our nametags. yeah, that's how the red cross rolls.

having never been to a job fair, i wasn't even sure what i was supposed to wear. thus, i wore a pair of faded jeans and a super small, thrift store polo shirt. standing at the entrance to campion ballroom, i was shocked to see that almost everyone - job seekers and job recruiters alike - were all in suits. i wanted to go home and change, at least put on a tie for god's sake. jordan at least had on khaki pants and some button-down blouse. still, we looked like a couple of young un-professionals.

we set our shit up, and after many hours, very few people stopped by our table. the few who did approach us wanted to know what we were doing there. i didn't have much to tell them, as we weren't hiring (literally, that was human resources' job), and i only had a vague sense of what volunteers could actually do. so, i just started talking about hurricane katrina and my three-week stint in louisiana. usually, the non-interested student would feign interest, and then say something sympathetic like, "gosh, i can only imagine what it's like there right now."

two girls i knew from the writing center approached our table. "hey!" they called out. "hi," i said, rather unenthusiastically. i didn't know them well enough to hug them, so i just stood there, and then they stood there, too. "so, this is what you're doing now?" the girl with the black hair said, with an obvious air of condescension. i tried to act as though i was too stupid to notice her disapproving of my poor, post-graduation choice in life. "yes, it is," i said, "would you mind hanging up one of these in the writing center?" i handed her a flyer for some international red cross event at the u.w., an event i would be obligated to attend, but was pretty sure no one else would. she said, "sure" and took the flyer from me. i was confident that she would place the flyer in the recycle bin instead, and rightly so.

they moved onto other tables, tables manned by representatives from boeing, microsoft, insurance companies, real estate companies, any companies with real money that would say they needed english majors, when really, they didn't. the only table that could rival our low attendance was the navy. i told jordan this. "yeah, that is strange," she said. "well, it is a catholic, liberal school," i said. we watched the navy representative look around the room, and then we - well, i - didn't feel so bad. at least we had each other.

a little bit before we were scheduled to leave, i went to the bathroom. i looked in the mirror, and there was blood on my chin from where a zit must have popped. i had walked around most of the morning with dried blood on my chin, and no one had said a word. wonderful, i thought. with a wet paper towel, i cleaned the blood off and returned to the absurdity.