Fruitvale Station

You have bad breath, daddy
You have bad breath, daddy

Choices. Interesting word. Many spiritualists state we don’t have choices, that all decisions are already made. The choice between having sex or throwing myself off the Golden Gate Bridge is a no brainer. I get that. My friends and I had the choice of watching Two Guns or Fruitvale Station. Another no brainer. Here's one. What would you do: sell dope when you have no money with bills looming over you, or throw the dope away? That is what the lead character Oscar Grant III had to make in the true story, Fruitvale Station.

Protest
Protest

I wanted to watch it because I ride the Bay Area Rail Transit—BART—when I go to the office and pass by Fruitvale station each time. And I visit my mom once a week in Oakland and often find myself in an Oscar Grant protest. When the incident happened, the streets of Oakland were covered in flyers, proclaiming the injustice. In the back of my mind, I’ve always wondered about the events that happened on New Year’s Day, 2009. And from the reviews that I’ve read about the film, there were some artistic license that were taken, but does that matter?

Ryan Coogler’s film does something special. Most non-Blacks have no idea how much racism Blacks endure. Being an Asian man, I go through my own stereotypes. People think I have a small penis, I drive badly, own my own laundry business, am good at mathematics (which explains why I’m a writer), am really bad with women, drive riced up cars, and am into really kinky sex. OK. Some of that stuff is true. I do do my own laundry and used to drive a fast and furious Civic.

What was the question?
What was the question?

There’s a long running science exhibit in San Francisco called The Exploratorium. It’s an amazing place that makes science palatable for us layman, allowing us to touch and work the experiments in each exhibit. There are many social experiments that reveal certain truths about human nature. In one spot, the directions state to look up at a point in the ceiling and wait to see how many others follow, looking for that elusive spot. I fell for it. Another exhibit called the Question Bridge talked about the Black experience, produced by Delroy Lindo. There are several screens showing Black Americans asking each other questions regarding their treatment in America. For example, doctors treat them like low class citizens compared to non-Blacks, making it difficult to get good medical care. That shocked me. What was cool about the Question Bridge was the diversity of thought, breaking the traditional views fed to us by the media.

All of this revealed how little I knew about the Black experience. Like the Question Bridge, Fruitvale breaks down that barrier and gives us a slice of Oscar Grant’s life, be it his last day, which only made the normal activities of spending time with his daughter, his girlfriend and family, calling his mother to wish her a happy birthday, driving around making plans to go to the City—San Francisco—for New Year’s Eve, dealing with the mounting bills, and making future plans that will never come to fruition all the more poignant. We all can relate to this as our lives are filled with ups and downs, mundane activies, and moments of contemplation of choices.

On the flip side, we non-police don’t know what’s it like to be an enforcer of the law. Imagine the amount of shit they take on a daily basis, the bullshit they have to sift through, and red tape that sometimes hinders justice that plays on the ego. Now imagine what it’s like to patrol BART on New Year’s Eve. I’ve gone to the City to watch the fireworks off the piers, and the streets are literally packed like sardines, hundreds of thousands of non-City folk going to one spot, most taking BART because alcohol is usually involved. In reality, if we wanted to take on the cops on that night, we’d win hands down. That’s reality. That's the pressure those cops are under.

What's awesome about Coogler's film is the portrayal of Grant in all his colors: his loving side, his disloyalty to his girlfriend who’s also the mother of their daughter, his close relationship with his mother, his generosity to strangers, his violent nature during his time spent in and out of jail, it’s unflinching. But Coogler doesn’t demonize the cops either, a natural and easy cliché. Like I said, Coogler just gives us a slice of Grant’s life, his struggle with the choice of making a better life versus taking the easy way out of dealing drugs, which is what had gotten him in trouble in the first place.

Check this out sucka
Check this out sucka

It’s also a rare film because it made me think. I’ve been inundated with what the Black experience is through the media, that in some way I’ve forgotten that a lot of it is straight up bullshit. We forget that we are all human. We are all innately equal, that our names, our net worth, our titles, our gender, does not make any one of us more valuable as a human being, that being human makes us all equal. To think that what clothes us makes us more important as compared to others would put us in the same category as racists.

Now that doesn’t mean we have to be colorblind. That term never made sense to me. What makes us special is our differences, our individuality, making each and everyone one of us perfect in our own way. To try to follow one single ideal is like trying to say that one ethnic background is better than another. That is complete bullshit. I’ve tried to show this in my books, it’s a subplot that is buried deep in the characters’ perception of each other, hoping that somehow it’ll sink into the reader’s subconscious. But this is not FRUITVALE’s approach. It’s an in your face narrative without blaring it as such.

Wake Up

Jean Shelton

Jean Shelton

I was talking to a friend of mine today. We met during my acting days when we both attended The Shelton Theater school for actors in San Francisco. Man, I miss those days. Jean Shelton had been around since The Group Theater in New York, and for those of you who know that lineage, they produced some of the best actors the world had literally seen. I’m talking about Marlon Brando, Lee Strasberg, Harold Clurman, famed director Elia Kazan, list goes on and on. She’d also met the greats like Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller. Her history is simply amazing.

Is my teef big enouf?
Is my teef big enouf?

My friend and I were discussing his history with women and how he only felt comfortable dating Asians. I asked him why, and he stated that he didn’t venture outside of our own slanty-eyed folk because he didn’t want to get rejected due to his ethnicity. During his formidable years in high school, he was bullied due to being one of the few ethnic kids in a town that was predominantly white. Of course, after many, many years his past still haunts him. And really, it’s not his past, but his constant thinking of it, blaming it that limits him.

This brought to mind almost all of my characters in my fantasy, Nightfall. Every one of them has a past that has directly affected their actions and decisions in the present. And almost all the time, those decisions have helped moved the story along because the choices they made were based on limited thinking and fear, resulting in disasters.

And disasters are great for storytelling. “We need to get this amulet to save the world. After acquiring it, the enemy stole it and will use it to conquer the world over. What do we do?”

My main character, for example, lost a toddler through a horrible, tragic accident that was outside of his control. (Read the prologue) Guilt and hate and fear swirl around him and his wife, weaving through out the story, churning their decisions into bad ones. And they can’t seem to get themselves out of their past.

Now, I’m not saying it’s easy. But then, I’m not saying it needs to be difficult. For me, it took time to get over my relationships that ended, for example. And it did n’t take much for some of my exes. Not sure if that’s saying something about me. Nah.

Eventually, I did let go of the trauma, which you need to understand was self-inflicted. I know this because sometimes I kept those memories alive. And in those rare moments where I was steeped in something else, the pain disappeared. And I guess that’s why rebounds are so common. The new relationship takes your mind off of the old one.

Going back to my friend, he hasn’t let go of the fact that his ethnicity is not to be blamed for what he perceives to be a limitation. It’s his continued belief in that idea. I told him my nephew has a black girlfriend, and they absolutely love each other.

I was like what...cuz he was like this much

I was like what...cuz he was like this much

Once you go black, you don't go back. That apparently doesn’t apply to Asians. One of my first exes had dated two black guys before me. I guess you can go back.

I personally understand the stigma of being Asian. I was bullied during school in a different way. Many of the jocks sat close to me during tests because they wanted to copy my answers. I shrugged because I wasn’t the best student in school. But they assumed that I studied hard when I hardly studied. Those same jocks were shocked when I could keep up with them in P.E. class. What they didn’t realize is being chased throughout the school helped me run faster. The threat of wedgies scared the shit out of me, so we nerds had no choice but to book it. Most of us never got caught, but that’s because we were forced to be fast.

Wayne Dyer, a well known self help author and speaker, said that the wake is the trail that’s left behind…the wake can’t drive the boat. So it is with our own pasts.

Faith, Destiny, Are They Real or Just Strippers?

What a helluva day! I went on a five-hour hike with a group of people, then went to the gym for a full workout, and completed sprints afterward. To say I am exhausted would be a slight understatement. But I had to do it because I missed my workout on Thursday due to it being Independence Day. Excuses, excuses.

Do you want a mint?

Do you want a mint?

In any good story, the heroine, the main character, the chosen one was custom made to go through the quest they are about to take. And there is no choice when the inciting incidence happens, hurling her into hell before he comes up to face their ultimate adversary. Whether they succeed in becoming the person they should be determines if they are tragic characters or not.

This applies to chic lit as well. When we see Bella meeting Edward for the first time, we know they are meant to be. Custom made by Stephanie Meyers to eternally love each other till the end of time.

When Romeo happens upon the moonlit face of Juliet, we know they are meant to be, despite the fact that their families hate each other. How do we know? Well, it's a story and we see these two people first, so we assume they are meant to be. And there was no team Jacob to say otherwise, and even then we knew Bella had eyes only for Eddie.

Back in our world, how do we find The One? As far as I can tell, there are two basic schools of thought. One, effort has to be made, effort being that you have to somehow put yourself out there. Two, it is destined. And if it’s destined, then why do we have so many divorces, and I think that has more to do with forcing One, which I can explain later.

In the jungles of the Souf Bay

In the jungles of the Souf Bay

Now, here I am at the hike. I’ve never met any of these people. The ulterior motive is to put myself out there, being a single and viral man. Too much? Choosing activities that I like and enjoy makes it easier for me to meet people. Bars and clubs I hate. I make my presence known by stating that I need to pee. Too much? It’s my humor. It’s a little lewd. But for any woman who can’t take such a minor comment, they won’t be interested. For those who understand and see through that comment are the ones I wanna be with.

Anyways… the first woman I talk to is an Asian woman (Why don’t people accuse me of having Yellow Fever when I go out with Asian women?). Accomplished, attractive, athletic, adventurous. But I feel our conversation is a bit stiff. It moves along well enough, but I feel no connection, no chemistry, no real flow.

Later in the hike, I meet another woman, and we jive about different San Francisco neighborhoods, nutrition, exercise (What do you call it when I go out with white women? The White Plague?). She even shares a sip of wine with me, a complete stranger who may have cooties. There's a connection, from the signs she's throwing. It helps that she’s attractive, but I’ve gone out with enough women to know that physical beauty fades. And I don’t mean literally. It’s getting used how people look. Imagine eating your favorite food in the whole world, something scrumptious, full of rich flavor, revealing layers of depth that encompasses your tongue, elevating your mouth in every heavenly way. Now imagine eating that for the rest of your life. You would quickly get sick of it. With anyone's looks, you'd get used to it, and it's good. Getting out of the infatuation phase allows us to focus on the important things like core values. Getting back to her, our conversation isn’t full of depth. In fact, it’s full of nothing. The content is meaningless. But we are vibing each other.

Does your bikini poke you?

Does your bikini poke you?

What gives? Why is it that there’s chemistry with some and not others? If you think it's because the second woman and I have things in common, then that's false. Cuz how much more common do I need to be with the Asian woman? I mean, we both have slanty eyes. Is there a destiny, a faith that helps bind us, bringing us together (Why is it that destiny and faith sound like strippers in a strip club)? Is there some all-knowing force that whispers to us and says, “You and you. Go at it like rabbits.”

I’ve no clue.

I do think that we have to be open to the things we want, that if we want to find someone to be with, then it might be a good first step to put ourselves out there, the effort. And being in the soup of human civilization, hopefully those strippers, Destiny and Faith, will lead us somewhere good.

What’s the worst that can happen? Never mind. Don’t answer that.

Help

Help

Normal. The standard. Traditional. The expected.

The norms of society have a greater influence over us as a people than we’d like to admit. Look at the GAP. All their clothes look the same. Look at Starbucks. Their coffees start to taste the same, becoming the standard. Family: Father, mother, son, daughter. Gay marriage? Hell to tha NO. Until the Supreme Court ruled otherwise. The norms may work for some, but definitely not others. Here is where I think most of the divorces hail from.

My mom nags and nags and forever nags about me getting married. She compares me to another man around my age who’s married with kids, and we know how well that worked out for Al Bundy. When the moment comes, I’ll get married. If it doesn’t, then I won’t. Forcing the issue to fulfill some societal norm would only stress out Faith and Destiny and push them to put me together with someone that I may not be compatible with. And how will that work out?

And stressed out strippers aren’t any fun. Not that I know anything about that. Ahem.

Compare and Contrast

A hallmark of a good story, outside of the story arc, is the character arc. We wanna see our character transform to the person they should be. Despite our dislike for change, Newton’s law I suppose, we want to improve, grow, get better, become greater than what we think we can be. Even people who aren’t storytellers know something is missing if nothing changes in a story, whether it be the overall or character arc, because we’re asking ourselves, What’s the point?

ChoppedLiver

ChoppedLiver

Over the weekend, I was hanging out with a few friends and a bunch of new ones. We were enjoying the rare warm sun of San Francisco with everyone teeming the streets with their dogs, boards, and wheels in the midst of the many picnics and people soaking in the rays. During the hustle and bustle, two acquaintances scurried up to my friend who said, “I’ll forward his info to you.” One of the girls thanked her and gave her a grateful hug. I’m standing there thinking, What am I, chop livah?

Dadudadudaaduuuu...Hawaii Five O

Dadudadudaaduuuu...Hawaii Five O

The guy they were referring to was tall, athletic, good looking, had a great career and a great personality to boot. So I get my imaginary list: I’m short, excuse me, height challenged; no one can tell whether I’m Filipino or Vietnamese even though I’m neither of those, but who can tell in the first place; still working on my five pack, I’m missing one, genetics I guess; I have a day job with no want for advancement; I tend to rely on humor too much and wonder if it’s a defense mechanism. So I understand the excitement over the new guy, who I’ve gotten to know, and is a cool dude.

Stress and self-loathing bubbles in my chest, a victim mentality wells in my mind, and I feel like nothing. At this point, my confidence is dead and dying. Uh. Right.

They all look like me

They all look like me

When I taught kids, one of the main things I imparted was not to compare oneself with any other. We are all perfect in our own way because there doesn’t exist one ideal perfection. In regards to nature, and the arts, if there was one ideal, then we’d die out pretty quickly because we wouldn’t be able to adapt. Art would all look the same. It’d be a horrible, horrible thing. Sorta like Hollywood movies. Oooh. No I didn't! Comparing ourselves to something else is pointless; we don’t wanna be like someone else, we inherently wanna be us, but accepted as well.

So what do I do about the above situation? Nothing. There is nothing to do because I know myself, I know what I offer, and like all other humans, I have many facets that lend well to whatever it is I want to do or be. It doesn’t make for good storytelling, we wanna see the trials and tribulations of self discovery, but I’m not the story here. My characters are, though, I have gone through the trials and tribulations, as it lends well to writing. At least that’s what I tell myself.

Cliche

No skid marks, right?

No skid marks, right?

I think the most common advice given to writers is not to be cliché. One teacher suggested writing opposite of your cliché tendencies. Dexter is a great example. He’s a serial killer. But his father raised him to kill with purpose, so he kills other serial killers. BREAKING BAD is another great example. Movies and TV have always pitted the drug dealer against the hero. How about the hero being a drug dealer, the antihero? SONS OF ANARCHY anyone?

There are two things I wanted to discuss today. First, is structure cliché?

My best friend is obsessive when it comes to knowing everything before attempting anything. Writing was no different. He read every single book on the market, went to seminars, visited websites, and hired writing coaches. Incredibly, obsessive—I mean—studious. To be honest, he’s opened my mind, and I’ve learned a lot from him.

He emphasized the importance of structure and how structure helps form our stories. So I asked whether being too structural can be cliché? Every story has a beginning, middle and end. That’s not cliché. Every good story should have at least one character experience change, becoming the person they’re meant to be. Fine. Then he advised that after a certain number of pages, this should happen, then another number of pages, this should occur, and so on and so forth. That’s cliché/formulaic. But then he started to nit pick and state that the first sentence of consecutive paragraphs should alternate between action and emotion, something he picked up from a writer we both admired. I said, “That sounds incredibly limiting.” Apparently, this is something Jim Butcher does. I have yet to confirm.

Damn. Those cars are speeding

Damn. Those cars are speeding

But to limit yourself in that way, to be formulaic and even too technical can leave your story dry, soulless. I read in a writing magazine that the worst thing for an editor is to have nothing constructive to suggest when an author’s work is technically spot on. Buildings are basically boxes stacked on top of each other. Architects, please don't beat me up. But the underlying foundation, the steel structure, the physics and obeying of gravity are constant in all architecture. But when looking at a skyline, it's rare to find any two buildings identical because it's also a piece of art.

I've always melded technique with instinct, my inner picture. Structure is always needed to serve the story. The story does not serve the structure.

In life we need to play against the norms, being cliché.

A friend, Dennis, set up a date for his pal, Fred. Fred asked for some advice on what to do on a first date.  Dennis suggested dinner and a movie.  Dinner. And a movie.

Wha—?

In a prior article, I wrote about my limited experience in the PUA world. Excuse me.  And the one commonality from all the wild and crazy advice was connect with women on an emotional level.  Another words, listen and talk to them like real people (wink wink).

Is there something in my teef?

Is there something in my teef?

Don’t know about you, but it’s really hard talking to a woman with food in my mouth. Cuz once I’m done with that bite, another goes in. And how attractive can I be talking to a woman as bits of food shoot from my mouth onto her plate? That ain’t gonna get me nowhere (double negative, I know).

Don't touch me there

Don't touch me there

Then we’re gonna go and sit in a dark room full of other people? Can you say intimacy? Or lack there of. Not to mention that that is cliché, as first dates go, very dry and unimaginative.

I wanted to suggest doing something different like window shopping, trying to find the most expensive thing. That way you can see what her tastes are, what she likes, leaves a lot of openings for spontaneous conversation. Or sit somewhere and people watch, create stories about them, a great way to see what your date self-projects. Fred is also a writer, so imagination isn’t lacking. But I held back because Dennis would address me as master, making fun of my mightier than thou attitude when my real intention was to help.

I left my martial arts school because of the massive heads I dealt with. So I'm very conscious of my own ego. It does get in my way, and I know to wait and let it stroll by.

Small Man's Complex

San Francisco is famous for many obvious things: Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, Fisherman’s Wharf, and also…street performers. Most common were those that frequented the streets of ye olde days—juggler, contortionist, escape artiste, storyteller—performing various tricks and jokes of all kinds. And this is one person. Whenever I’m at Pier 39, I always catch a performance, since they’re free, and pay them a bill at the end of their performance, as this is how they make their living.

This one particular entertainer started doing her shtick by juggling three, lit torches. About a hundred adults and children stood around the stage at the back of the pier, silent. Flags flapped behind as the wind blew.

I'm glad I'm not a man

I'm glad I'm not a man

“What?” the performer asked. “You see this every day?”

Everyone, including myself, applauded and hooted. She said it in jest, but had a point.

You lookin' at me?

You lookin' at me?

I’ve started going on hikes with random people to explore my surrounding world a bit. I’ve found beautiful places that I’ve lived next to, never knowing they were so close. This past weekend, on a particular hike in Big Sur, two fauna had stopped in their tracks in yellow grass. Both stared at me, ready to leap away if I made an attempt to tear into their flesh. I’m not that kind of predator, but they didn’t know that.

However, it was the first time that I could remember where an animal was reading me. Their eyes were locked onto me, sensing my every move. I guess taking out my camera to take a picture wasn’t threatening, since they stayed and smiled. OK. They didn’t smile, but they didn’t move. We shared a unique and intense moment. Pretty awesome. I strolled away quietly.

Wah

Wah

At the end of the hike, a small Asian man was talking to a small group of hikers and marveled at the mountains that lay before us. He mentioned that there was nothing to see until you made it to the end of the trail. I said I saw fauna as we were hiking in.

His slanty eyes glared at me though his dark sunglasses. “If I don’t have a mountain in my face, then it’s not scenery,” he asserted.  I don't know how to fit a mountain in his face, but I guess the vast Pacific Ocean behind us wasn't impressing him either.

“So do you see fauna every day?” I jested.

Again, those slanty eyes glared and he proceeded to talk to his group, ignoring me.

At the end of our day, some of us went to a seafood restaurant to eat. When finished, this same guy said good-bye to every table, and when it came to mine, he strode by and ignored me as I waved my hand.

“Do ya feel tha heat?” I thought to myself. Small man’s complex. Yes, surprisingly enough, this guy was shorter than me. But who’s counting.

One of the best places on display for the Napoleon Complex is the gym. When I go after work, it gets crowded. So paths are gonna be crossed, people bump into each other, guys wanting to show how tough and beefy they are will grunt and yell as they lift. Almost always, those who don’t yield and barge into your path, who stare and compare the amount of weight lifted to yours, and grunt and yell tend to be short men. I don’t ever see this behavior from women, but they tend to compare tits, legs and ass, something I like to take note as well. Ahem.

There’s nothing I can do about being short. After struggling with being vertically challenged, I found accepting it was the best and only choice. Scoffing at anyone’s precious moment is something I don’t do either. I’ve realized as I march toward my own mortality that every moment is precious, even those spent writing useless articles.

Can a Man Write as a Woman?

Street food on the street

Street food on the street

Recently, I had gone to the San Francisco Street Food Festival. It’s a non-profit that helps the community. The smells of the dozens of food carts, trucks, and grills did a great job quenching everyone’s thirst and hunger. A great event.

I had gone with a friend from my acting days and met with a group of people I’ve never met before. If you’ve never been to the Mission in San Francisco, it’s pretty big. The food festival was no different. After walking and standing in lines the whole day, some of us decided to rest at an elementary school yard on long flat benches. Hard on the ass, but good for the feet.

No comment

No comment

The lady next to me flopped her sandals off, crossed her legs, and bumped her foot with the beat of the music. That was when I first noticed her feet. Let’s just say my calloused big toe was nice and pristine compared to her feet. My ex-girlfriend used to get on my case about my big toe, suggesting I use a rubbing stone to smooth it out. Like what is the big deal? I work out hard, and it’s just a side of effect of having a nice, Greek God of a body. OK. My body is not of a Greek God, since I'm Chinese.

But, now, I understand.

I became thankful of how the girls in my past took care of themselves. I still don’t know nor fully understand the effort they put in, but I definitely appreciate it. I just love clean feminine women. Is it right, wrong? I’m not qualified to judge. But I can’t deny what I love.

Am I sexy?

Am I sexy?

More and more, I've been observing what women do and go through. I think a large part of this was a review that I read, from a woman, of the Game of Thrones, written by George R. R. Martin. I wish I could link the review because she articulated this better than my memory could. One of her many complaints was that, as human beings, we don’t really know what it’s like to be the opposite sex. For me, I can try and write from a perspective of a woman, but I may not truly understand what it is to be a woman.

The reviewer quoted a passage from the book, a female character (paraphrasing): As she walked in, her breasts swished behind a sheer robe.

When I first read this, I immediately imagined a nice set of breasts swaying back and forth through sheer silk. What's wrong with that? Then BAM! The reviewer said a woman rarely thinks about her breasts unless she has to like when she's buying a bra or when a dude ogles at them. She then stated: Would a man walking through a room be conscious of his penis swaying?

I don’t. Unless, my thoughts pointed to swaying breasts behind a sheer robe. Then I’d be fully conscious of it, especially sitting here in Starbucks. OK. Time to get my thoughts away from swaying breasts. Give me a moment.

Best of the Best of the Best of the Bestest

Best of the Best of the Best of the Bestest

Several of my chapters are written from the perspective of female characters in my books. So I had to go back and make sure I didn’t make that mistake. As a former actor, we’re trained to really place ourselves in another’s shoes. Whether we’re successful or not as artists in that regard will be left to posterity. But I think we all do our best to do our work to the best of our bestest ability. And that’s all anyone can ask cause being asked to do better than our bestest of our best would only push our best to be better.

Uh. Yeah.