Secret Pop

Feb 14, 2010

Year of the Eye of the Tiger

Today was my first visit to San Diego in 2010. A longer absence than usual. Truncated by the same reason as nearly always. In a recent email, my mother invited me to come to a Chinese New Year dinner with the family, and she adorably and somewhat passive-aggressively said: "We have not seen you for so long. Your dad and I like to have you here as long as we can. I hope we are also your Valentine. :)" This is the form of guilt I find most irresistible.

Usually, Chinese New Year's most noteworthy impact on my life is a slight urge to go to the post office and buy year-of-the-whatever stamps. Back in 2004, I was on this mail art kick, which I unashamedly attribute to watching How to Draw a Bunny and getting all caught up in the genius of Ray Johnson. In addition to buying a photocopier and a lifetime's worth of art supplies, I bought far too many year of the monkey stamps as a means of supporting my plans to send random letters and little arty things I made to various people I knew. I did it for a while. Sent letters around the world and across the country. Sent a bunch to my sister. It never really kicked off a movement, as I might have hoped. I think the only person in the lot who sent me something in the mail was my friend Geoffrey, love that he is. In the end, I was left with a lot of extra stamps. And I seem to have misplaced the little address book I was keeping. So the mailing of stuff won't reinstate itself without at least a little bit of leg work.

So this year, I don't really care that it's the year of the tiger especially, but I do care that it's something new. Time is linear, but the way we experience it is largely cyclical. And these occasional markers are as good an excuse as any to kick yourself in the pants and say, "Hey, how about doing things a little differently this time?" You don't get to unlive or undo. But you can certainly start over. As many times as you like, really. Maybe you can even get it perfect eventually. As long as part of what you change is the way you define perfect, and as long as you learn not to throw away too too much when you're doing your spring cleaning.

I'm not drinking glasses of whole eggs for breakfast. That would just be taking things too far.

Gong xi fa cai, people. Possibility is as much about what won't happen as it is about what will. But in either case, it all begins with the walnut shrimp.

Feb 7, 2010

Towards the Memory of a Better Prom

I did not have one of those longstanding boyfriend-girlfriend things in high school. A lot of people I knew did. And at the time, I probably envied them. But through the filter of my more experienced recollection, I look back on those scenes and assume that I wasn't feeling especially left out. Even though they were 15 maybe 16 years-old, my classmates in relationships became like old married couples. The girls became practical, dour. And they expected things. The boys had to think ahead to bring a second jacket, in case girlfriend required first jacket over the shoulders of her cheer sweater. The boys had to be careful not to talk to other girls. Not to look at other girls. The girls had to be careful not to tell their blabber-prone friend the details of their various dissatisfactions. I remember seeing them talking to each other at their lockers, these coupled up ones. It never looked fun. It often looked angst-ridden. And at the time -- as I was listening to The Smiths and The Cure and David Sylvian -- maybe it was the angst I envied. But I think about it now, and I have to wrinkle my nose. I had my crushes to depress over. But I didn't have this boyfriend-girlfriend thing. This "let's hold hands even though neither of us seems to like doing that" thing. This "I'll just wait in your car while you're at football practice" thing. At the time, having someone expect you to be waiting outside for them at the end of the day seemed like something I would have wanted. Looking back, though, I'm relieved I never narrowed the field in that way. (At least not until the absolutely very end of my senior year. And at that point, half the time we weren't in school anyway.) I compare it in my brain to going exploring and stopping at the first place you see that seems different and just staying there. You don't know you're just steps away from the unattended entrance of the world's coolest abandoned amusement park. You don't know that you could walk five minutes and see an original Van Gogh. You don't know there are restaurants that don't have microwaves in them. How could you know? You've settled in right here. In this little alcove that inadvertently provides shelter in the event of rain but doesn't appear to have been designed for that purpose.

In some ways, I think growing up is just the act of revising your wants. All those things you thought you needed. All those things you knew you had to have. Looking back at them from years away almost demands the making of excuses. I don't know that many people who can talk about those tender, temerity-filled teenage years and say, "This is who/what I loved," without having to immediately offer, "Let me explain..." Life mostly ends up being the many ways you push yourself towards the things you convince yourself must happen. You rewrite the musts over and over. But the pushing itself is written in indelible ink.