1. Listen, here’s my philosophy on life.

    You’ve gotta be tough.
    Mentally tough.
    Not because life is painful or out to get you, but because life is uncertain.
    It never goes the way you planned and that can make it feel like it’s never going your way, but this is simply not true.
    There is no such thing as your way, there is only life.
    And the sooner you accept that the easier it is to move on.
    That’s what it means to be tough - to move on.
    This doesn’t just apply to the huge life-changing moments either.
    Tough shit happens every day.
    Every adversity gets that toughness hard and worn like leather and you learn to move on.
    You learn to be tough.
    And the key to it all?
    It’s not grit or fortitude or confidence.
    Toughness comes from gratitude.
    Tough is grateful in all things.
    Tough has to choose between a rock and a hard place and is grateful for having a choice.
    Tough isn’t sure what’s next, but is damn grateful it’s alive to find out.
    Tough thanks the past and moves on. 
    The moment you stop being grateful is the moment you start being a little bitch. 
    Stay thankful. Stay tough. 

     


  2. Conversations That Are Way Too Deep for a Four Year Old

    A young boy teeters on the ledge of a loading dock behind Safeway. His father stands at the ready just beneath him at street level.

    "Come closer!"

    "You can do it, Son." 

    "Daddy, come closer. It’s too far." 

    "Come on, Sport. It’ll be alright. I’ll catch you." 

    "No. Closer." 

    "Come on, son. Just jump. You’re a big boy now. Four years old. You can do this." 

    The boy is crying now. 

    "Son, look at me. You can spend this time wondering if you could… or a lifetime knowing that you did. You decide."

    The boy cries more. 

     


  3. image

    Hey there, Kid.
    One day you’re gonna grow up to have a head the size of a watermelon. Sure, you’ll have a good three decades with a nice thick head of hair in a variety of faux-hawk designs before it’s all said and done, but make no mistake: your face will be the size of a fucking deep dish pizza after puberty. Blame your dad. You’ll try try to blame him for other things too, like your lack of direction in choosing a meaningful career or your impulsive desire to quit everything at the earliest sign of any adversity or discomfort, but trust me, you have only yourself to blame for that. Revel in these bowl-coiffed times, child; they are some of your best. You can actually jog 30 feet without sucking air like you’ve just been tossed from a wave. You’re still an overachiever. You won’t believe the obnoxious little piss ant clown you become in seventh grade and you’ll kick yourself when you see that SAT score; let’s just say you barely crack four figures. Spoiler alert.

    Yeah, it’s disappointing, I know. Get used to it. That might be the defining word of your adult life. Not because life has let you down. You did. You’ll spend most of your nights wondering what the fuck happened and what might have been had you stuck with it longer, ate fewer carbs, and applied yourself now and again. But hey, tough shit. Oh and did I mention the crippling depression that will come and go? Yeah, brace yourself. Don’t worry, you don’t actually have anything to be depressed about, but you won’t be able to help yourself. And the older you get, the more you’ll think you have a handle on it while being completely confused by it. You’ll call yourself a talentless piece of shit and then stay in bed until the guilt of never having left the bed keeps you there another 12 hours or so. Have fun with that.

    In about 20 years, you’ll fancy yourself a shrugging writer with a beautiful wife and dog. You’ll live a modest life with earnest ambitions, but you’re really quite clueless; a wandering underachiever still searching for something worth trying for. You won’t find it. But man, the weather in California is gorgeous. You’re gonna love the burritos too. Just look in the mirror (but not with your shirt off. Never with your shirt off!). Before you know it, it’ll be time for you to have a smiling little bowl-cut pumpkin of your own. And you’ll realize that all of your big dreams are just that. Dreams. You’ve been a lazy son of a bitch who can’t figure out what he’s supposed to do. You wanna do something meaningful with your life? Right. I’m sure selling advertising is the way to do it, asshole.

    But hey, it’s not all bad. Actually, it’s mostly great. You’ll have had no real personal tragedies in life. And you’ll laugh a lot more than you do anything else. The video games are pretty sweet as time goes on and wait ‘til you try weed for the first time. Jesus. Speaking of which, don’t worry about all that. It goes away in your late 20s and never comes back. Try harder at other things. Your knowledge of the Gospel of John is surprisingly useless. Trust me.

    All bullshit aside, life is good. It’s a weird balance of unspeakably awful tragedy and heart-warming triumphs of humanity, but the scales tend to tip towards the good most of the time. Except on Sundays - the Redskins will ruin your life.

    It’s a good life you’ve got coming, kid. Just keep that smile on your face and take comfort knowing the french fries only taste sweeter and sweeter with each passing year. They double fry them (Belgian style) at a few places and it will blow your mind. Spoiler alert.

     

  4. "Mission Control, this is Mars Rover. Do you copy?"

    "Affirmative, M.R. Welcome to the Red Planet. Over."

    "Uh, roger that, M.C. I was told there would be grass and a pile of organic raw salmon treats waiting for me upon arrival?"

    "Yeah, copy that, M.R. It looks like you got some faulty intel on that one. This is purely an exploratory mission, no treats today. You look great out there though. Make us proud. Over."

    "Thanks. So, there’s quite a bit of sand here, it tastes awful - in case you were wondering, but I think I’ll keep shoving my face in it and dropping mouthfuls into my remaining water supply."

    "Negative, M.R. The sand will be trapped in your wrinkles and line the inside of your mouth and throat for weeks. Stop eating sand. Over."

    [Fills mouth with sand.]

    "I was told there’d be salmon treats in every mouthful of sand. Let me try a few dozen more."

    "Nobody said that. Stop eating sand. Over."

    [Fills mouth with sand.]

    "Still no treats. Could we double check the intel on that Mars Treats and Tennis Balls Report, M.C.? Cause I don’t seem to be finding anything."

    "Stop eating sand, M.R. There is no report and you don’t know how to read. Over."

    "Ok. Now I’m gonna run as fast as I can for 8 seconds."

    "Roger that. We’d like to explore as much of the planet as possible. So, pace yourself."

    [4 seconds later. Panting]

    "Mars - Rover - here… Wow - is the air - thinner up here - or something?"

    "Well, there’s no oxygen there at all. Over."

    "10-4. I’m gonna lay down for a minute. It is HOT."

    [Collapses onto sand. Licks sand on the ground, slowly.]

    "Please. Stop eating sand. Over."

    [Singing] I could stay awake ~ just to hear you breeaathing ~

     


  5. What Really Happens at a HipHop Show

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    "Throw your hands in the air! Wave em like you just don’t care!
    But don’t be careless. Wave them side to side, like this, in time with the music, from left to right, in unison with everyone else around you!
    I know we originally said, ‘wave em like you just don’t care,’ but it turns out this gesture requires a lot more attention and effort than we had previously lead you to believe!
    Now clap! And clap! Extend your arms all the way up over your head and lightly crane your neck in rhythm as you smack your hands together on the 2! and 4! And clap! And clap! You, white girl, stop applauding! This is a highly synchronized motion meant to accentuate the down beats of this song! Why are you moving your head like that?
    While we have your attention, throw up a muthafuckin’ finger! Specifically the muthafuckin’ middle one! And say, ‘Oh Yeah!’ But again, refrain from just doing your own thing; the same rules apply here! Say, ‘Oh Yeah’ only after we say it first and with respect to the time signature!
    Now somebody SCREAM!
    But bear in mind, we actually mean everybody scream! We won’t be satisfied with just a smattering of screams here and there! We need everybody to make some noise up in this bitch!”

    —-
    "Smoke weed every day."

     

  6. Fall 1998. Frederick, MD. 

     

  7.  

  8. yall play too much. quit playin. 

    From my incredibly talented friend: Chris Berry, Art Director, yall.  

     


  9. The One Thing I Hate More Than Politics: People Screaming About Politics

    Political season is about to be in full swing here and I’d like to offer a polite suggestion to everyone I know: please shut the fuck up.

    No matter which side of the aisle you’re on, please shut the fuck up.

    Let’s get this out of the way first: nothing is going to ‘destroy America.’ Do you know why? Because America is not some dainty porcelain candy bowl that will shatter and explode when some other fuckwad is in office. America is a behemoth of a country that can handle its shit. And while we’re at it, you can’t ‘take the country back’ because that doesn’t really mean anything. And there’s no such things as a ‘Real American’ [besides Hulk Hogan], so stop proclaiming to be one because you read Mitt Romney’s wikipedia page once.

    Politics is a dirty game and a necessary evil. We all accept this, yet still argue in terms of ideals and absolute values. Please stop. Like anything else in life, government is inclined to swings and stumbles and changes over time. Regardless of who takes office next January, you’re probably gonna be just fine. Calm down. We have these traits called human decency and reason that have gotten us through several millennia now; we’ll be ok.

    I’m not saying government is unimportant, I’m just asking you to shut the fuck up about it. Nobody changes their mind because of your facebook post. And unless your name was once stenciled on the door of a government building, you truly have no idea what the fuck you’re talking about. You know as much about running a country as you do about banging a porn star; obsessively jacking off while thinking about it doesn’t make you an expert in either.

    There is a time and a place for debate and it usually happens in October, in Primetime, on national television. It typically involves two candidates running for president and a moderator. You were not invited to participate in this event. Your tweets don’t count. In fact, nothing you say ever counts. Ever.

    The only thing you could possibly do that resembles anything even remotely relevant is to vote. Go check your box. That’s all you get. Before and after that is an invitation to shut the fuck up land. Go there. Make yourself at home. Enjoy the fresh mountain air and cloudless skies. Watch football. Eat wings. Find peace in the fact that nobody gives a shit why you’re a republican or a democrat or even more insufferably, neither. And if you catch a friend or foe spewing worthless political noise in the next 2 months, invite him to shut the fuck up land too. Just be polite about it.

     


  10. Life is Weird: Our Bizarro Wedding

    So I saw this on Buzzfeed today about finding your bizarro wedding. It’s a simple enough game: google [“john and eunice” wedding] and look for the first wedding that comes up. What I found was uncanny.

    The first page that pops up on my search is this one

    Yes, another couple named John and Eunice, but the similarities don’t end there:

    1. Korean Americans
    2. Deeply religious Christians (at the time of nuptials, anyway)
    3. Majority of their dating relationship was long-distance (6/7 yrs for them, 3/4 yrs for us)
    4. Brides in casual white footwear (Toms for them, Flip Flops for us)
    5. Guys in sports apparel at the reception (NBA jerseys for them, Redskins for us)
    6. Six bridesmaids. Six groomsmen. 
    7. She was in grad school, while he was working.
    8. Lived in Pasadena, CA
    9. Life is weird.


    I feel so unoriginal right now. 

     

  11. Set it at 720P. Fullscreen it. If you don’t have the time of your life watching this, I’ll kiss your ass. 

     
     


  12. Scotty Mcreery and the Savages

    During the Season 10 auditions for American Idol, I fell in love. It was a special kind of love. Not the kind of love worth singing or crying about. It wasn’t homo or hetero - it wasn’t sexual at all. It was a different breed of love. Not like “I Will Always Love You” love or even “The Greatest Love of All” love (that would be inside of me). It was more akin to the love one feels for a child or a puppy. A proud, nurturing love. A caretaker’s love. A father’s love. I loved a boy, an Angelboy as a matter of fact. His name was Jacee Badeaux. He was 15, from Lafayette, Louisiana. 

    For his audition, Angelboy sang Otis Redding’s “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay.” His voice, so pure and pristine, rang like heaven’s handbells on christmas morning. His fat little cheeks pinched his eyes puffy and his tousled hair was what happens when Mom tries the Bieber Cut at home. He breathed much too heavy for a 15 year old, but then again, all that soul don’t come easy. Angelboy.

    Oh Angelboy. He was a shoo in for Hollywood Week, but it was only a matter of time before the darkness would corrupt him there.

    A few episodes after Angelboy, another young singer was showcased. Scotty, a gangly country bumpkin, 16 years old, from Garner, North Carolina. He described himself as an All-American Kid, singing since before the age of one, retelling his doctor’s tale about coming out of the womb humming “Bye, Baby Bunting.” It was apocryphal. He played baseball and had smirk lines tattooed on his face.

    His voice was deep, in tone only. He sang Josh Turner’s “Your Man.” Admittedly, it was the right choice of song. It showcased his style: overtly hick with a tinge of rapist, and he got to do his George Strait head bobs at the end of every phrase. Scotty made it through to Hollywood and oh yes, he went on to win Season 10 of American Idol. 

    As far as reality TV competitions go, Idol’s Hollywood Week is right up there with eating a donkey shit covered cockroach while amazing racing through Sri Lanka with a Kardashian sister and 8 kids. It breaks people. And the absolute nadir of human existence is broadcast on network TV as the hotel lobby at 4 AM during the Group Stage of Hollywood Week. Nineteen year old demi-divas with their weaves a mess and voices hoarse, singing motown, acapella, while the white girl struggles with leaning right on the “1 and 3 and 1 and 3 and” choreography. 

    It is in this world where our two contestants meet. Angelboy, the beloved, so pure and so rare, joins a group called the Guaps. As they begin to assemble, we hear the faint echoes of carnage in the background. It soon becomes an incessant 3 second stream of noise: “baby lock them doors and turn the lights down low… baby lock them doors and turn the lights down low… baby lock them doors and turn the lights down low…” It’s Scotty. He’s singing the opening line of the Josh Turner song, on repeat. Robotically. Like some kind of twisted singing cowboy machine used to tell redneck fortunes in Alabama. Scotty couldn’t find a group and was now whoring himself to anyone who’d listen. He finds his way to the Guaps, gazes off into nothing and shows em what he can do, “baby lock them doors and turn the lights down low…” It is Angelboy, the merciful, inviting him to join their ranks. Angelboy the Merciful.

    There they stood, side by side, until Sabatoge! The Guaps have mysteriously decided to reduce their quintet by one. Such a sudden change. Why? What demonry of black magic and destruction, Mcreery? Scotty Saboteur! Saboteur! I hiss at the screen. Young Angelboy is asked to leave the group. Abandoned by the ones he came to save. The cold shoulder from some unimportant dipshit named Clint with obnoxious white glasses. Angelboy’s beauty replaced by a rival who looks like the slow-witted younger brother of the MAD magazine coverboy. It is hard to watch. Hard to fathom. Angelboy is fighting back tears, but pain comes so flush in the face of one so pure.

    "It’s ok. Y’all have fun, ok? It’s ok. It’s ok," Angelboy says to the ones who spurn him. He means it. His kindness knows not irony. He walks idly through the lobby. Lost and bewildered. And then he begins to weep.

    What happens after this no longer matters to me. What’s lost is lost forever.  

    Angelboy, 15, from Lafayette, Louisiana has learned of betrayal. Pain. Pain of the heart. Is this who we are now? A group of savages ripping apart the innocent boy? All for what? For Hollywood Week? For sport? For making it through to the Top 13 and holding the microphone like some god damned one-handed piccolo while you awkwardly bobblehead your way through ruining another country classic? How fitting you’ve become the American Idol, Scotty Mcreery. Savage. This is who we are now - savages. And for that, I will never forgive you.

    -Epilogue-

    I still think of him often, Angelboy. Our Angelboy, 15, from Lafayette, Louisiana. I’m reminded of him when I see betrayal. I’m reminded when I see kindness. I’m reminded whenever I see a fat white kid with maple colored hair. And every time I witness pain of the heart, I think of him, how purity is lost, not at the hands of time, but by the cruelty of others. All it takes is a little singing competition. 

     


  13. Chinks in the Armor

    image

    One morning, when I was 12, I stood waiting for my school bus at the bottom of the hill where Granalta Circle meets Kemp Lane. It was a crisp Maryland morning, still early enough to see the white fog of breath and the gray sheath of morning dew across the street. I was alone at the bus stop each morning as the oldest kid in the neighborhood (there were only 4 of us), and I usually just stood there fidgeting in my Redskins Starter jacket, pushing my glasses tight up against my face. This was the only method for keeping my glasses in place on my fat, flat, Asian face.

    My fat, flat, Asian face.

    I wasn’t aware of any of this at the time, my fatness or flat facedness or Asianness. Well, not in a self-conscious way, anyway. I knew I was different, but I was just a goofyass kid. I had scored some major cool points in 6th grade by writing an original horror story about a family that had their limbs cut off and stuffed into pizza boxes and delivered to their relatives as free pizza (because, hey, who doesn’t love free pizza?). Not only was I writing for an audience, I was also performing quite a bit in the classroom. I once received a written referral citing my creation of “250 paper missiles and other spitball projectiles positioned in a threatening way to fellow students.” Another time I was made to sit out in the hall during science class because I kept pointing to an empty chair next to me and telling my friends to “come shit over here.” I once spent an entire math class miming as “Michael Jackson in a Box” from my desk at the back of the room.

    And that morning, waiting for the bus at the bottom of Granalta Circle, I was just another goofyass 7th grader waiting for the bus. The bus was a crazy place. My middle school shared a parking lot with my high school and so, the district thought it only made sense to pack petrified 11 year olds alongside 19 year old redneck ‘super seniors’ who’d had their driver’s license revoked for conducting ‘hillbilly drive bys’ with their BB guns, all in one yellow school bus. This is all true. And for the fifth year in a row, I was the only non-white person on the bus.

    When the bus finally arrived that morning, I climbed aboard and found it unusually quiet, even for a Monday. Our bus driver, Mehrle DuVall, usually had country radio playing in the background, but he was in no mood that morning. I quickly surveyed the scene: the eighth grade girls doing their hair up front, as usual; the 6th graders huddled three to a seat hugging their clarinets; the high school couples dry humping at 6:47 in the morning; and the aforementioned super senior rednecks in the last three rows. I usually sat with my friend Colin somewhere in the teens, but that morning, I saw Colin’s pale arm shoot up and wave me to the last row - he had been accepted by the rednecks! My face lit up as I made my way back; there was always unspeakably awesome mischief taking place beyond row 25, or at the very least, candy. 

    I sat down next to Colin and kept quiet. I had no idea how he got the invite back there, but I wasn’t gonna blow it. I fidgeted some more with my jacket - it kept puffing up in the middle, and I cleaned my glasses with the Redskins shirt I had on underneath (we had just beaten the Giants on Sunday). I still couldn’t help but wonder what Colin had done to move up (back?) the social ladder so fast. After silent deliberation, I decided it was the condom-as-a-skullcap bit he did on Friday that put him over the top. Yep, condom as a skullcap, it’s exactly what it sounds like. The hicks LOVED that.

    So there I was, wedged into row 28 with my knees up against the back of row 27, listening to Alpha Redneck talk about how he was building a wall of beer (“burrr”) cans in his shed. He had fresh welts on his face and arms; apparently from a game of paintball war he plays with his brothers except instead of paintballs, they shoot copperhead BBs at each other. “Paintball is fer pussies,” he said. He looked hungover.

    The bus hit the wavy part of Shookstown Road and Alpha Redneck slowly turned his neck a full 90 degrees to stare straight at me while keeping his shoulders awkwardly square with the seat. I avoided eye contact at first, but flashed a bashful smile and raised my eyebrows.

    "What’re you doin back here (‘hurrr’)?” he asked.
    I just shrugged, unable to speak as my mouth was suddenly deathly dry.
    "This bus is white man only, don’t you know?" 

    His tone was obnoxious and laced with a hint of sarcasm beneath it. I couldn’t tell if he was joking or not, he always sounded like that. Like Stifler making the jerk off gesture.

    And suddenly, before I could respond, he said it: “no Chinks allowed.”

    I gave a nervous chuckle and looked away. I was scared and I immediately sensed my brain trying to process the situation. The only thing I could surmise was that I had somehow never known the meaning of the word “Chink” until now. Why did I think it applied to Mexican people? Was it ‘Chico’ that I was confusing it with? Chicano, maybe? Wasn’t A.C. Slater Chicano? Is ‘Chink’ supposed to imply that I’m Chinese? He knows I’m not Chinese, he’s asked me before. In fact, just last week he kept referring to me as ‘Koreanese.’ I distinctly remember not knowing how to feel because I had no idea what the intended effect was. Is he joking? Is he gonna pick me up by the collar of my puffy Starter jacket with his huge, hay-bucking hands and kick my Koreanese ass? I knew it wasn’t the “N word,” but I knew it was derogatory. At least, I thought it was meant to be derogatory. No one had ever called me that before. Could Alpha Redneck really be that unabashedly racist and stupid?

    So I just chuckled. That’s all I could do. Chuckle like a harmless, cowardly, little Chink. Chinks don’t fight back. Chinks act like they didn’t just hear that word come out of your mouth. Chinks sit there and chuckle, quietly. Stupid, scared, little Chink.

    Alpha Redneck looked right between my eyes, at my fat, flat, Asian face and he said, “yeeaaah I thought so.”

    Then, suddenly, he shot up like a prairie dog and pointed to the window, “Holy shiet! Look at that buck! Thas at least a 10 pointer right thurr!”

    I was saved by a fucking deer. Durrrrrr.

    image

    Almost 18 years later, I think back to that morning and what it meant. I remember wanting to cry in the moment, but not because it hurt me; I just didn’t know what to do with it. Maybe it was the impetus for my fascination with words and my irreverence towards race. Maybe it was the day I started classifying everyone in the world as either “stupid motherfuckers who don’t know what they’re doing and saying” or “cool people.” Maybe it was just another one of a billion odd and wonderful things that happened to me in Frederick, MD.

    Last week, ESPN.com went with the headline, “Chink in the Armor,” when the Knicks lost and Jeremy Lin had a bad game. I chuckled. It was the first time I’d heard the word since 7th grade. The first time I recall, anyway. I wasn’t offended. In fact, my first instinct was to laugh my ass off. And when my wife heard about it the next morning, I told her I was certain the writer made an honest mistake as “Chink in the Armor” has become a rather boring, but common idiom in the American sports vernacular. (I swear this was my reaction! My wife will vouch for it! PLEASE BELIEVE ME!!) Anyway, over the next few days, the requisite media shitstorm invaded my internet universe and even conjured up some of Jay Caspian Kang’s best writing. I still chuckle at the whole thing.

    I’m not 12 anymore and I don’t chuckle because I’m scared or confused. I chuckle now because I think a headline featuring an Asian basketball star that says “Chink in the Armor” is a pretty damn funny mistake to make. It’s better than a chuckle, in fact, it’s worth a full-throated laugh. Of course it’s not ok. Of course he should be fired. Of course we shouldn’t teach our children such words or values. Of course it’s hurtful and ignorant. Of course. But we’d all get on so much better if we’d just accept that racism happens. Yes, we’ve come a long way and we’ve all evolved so much in the last 20 billion years (Eminem! Obama! Tiger! Lenny Kravitz! Larry Bird! Jeremy Lin! ALF!!), but stupid racist shit still happens and it always will. Do you know why? Because there will always be somebody dumb enough to be ignorant or hateful, or both. There will always be stupid motherfuckers who don’t know what they’re doing or saying.

    But there doesn’t always have to be somebody on the other side being offended by them.

    In the case of words, victims are voluntary. They called him Chink. So what? Give em the finger and move on. It is beneath us, all of it: the chatter, the fight, the “one step forward, two steps back” essays. I’m more offended by the amount of time and credence given to the word than the actual word itself. It wasn’t wanton (wonton?) discrimination. Jeremy Lin wasn’t denied the right to vote or told to use the Yellows Only bathroom. It was just a stupid word. Laugh it off and move on. Just laugh because it’s all so absurd, especially in this day and age. Laugh, and it loses its power. Laugh, not because you approve, but because it’s so stupidly wrong that anyone who attempts to hurt you with such words looks utterly stupid and wrong. Laugh, and make it “Chinks in the Armhair.” Laugh, and it loses its power. Laugh, and we become bulletproof. Laugh, and we shore up the chinks in the armor.

     

  14. Jean Touitou, founder of A.P.C., every single line is quotable brilliance.

     
     

  15. so, this is christmas