New Romantix

Jersey Azns, FOBs, and All-American Girls

October 27, 2015

For most of my life I’d been stuck in the poser-perfect New Jersey suburb where Chris Christie resided while he was still skinny. The town had turned so Asian that all my friends knew Psy was too old, too gimmicky, and had the swagger of a real politician, two years before “Gangnam Style” blew up. Before we stopped in high school, we made yellow a religion, and if you saw me in the hallway you’d call me Bok Choy and the girl on my right Napa Cabbage, and even if we all had peanut butter sandwiches for lunch, we’d gush about Kam Man Food like it was some type of heaven, not a fish-smelling, tabloid-selling, Hi-Chew-having thing in the miniature mall right in front of Costco. We memorized nigahiga’s “How to be Ninja” until we made it classic. The azn-pryde sentiment in my adolescence was so strong it reeked. But after it had passed, I hadn’t thought about it at all, until last July, when I’d given a ride to a seventh-grade family friend and he rattled his Asian Man Philosophies the whole way to his house two towns over. I was shocked by how a middle-schooler could be so daring, so unapologetically political, so willing to marry the personal with the general.

In middle school, more than anything else, I wanted to associate myself with something—even if that something was a gimmick, and even if I had to make that thing up myself. I wanted it to be extraordinary and grandiose, as perfect as power. I thought, and still think, we were at the head of a movement that dissipated because our models were teenagers not adults, our roots were in comedy not in history, and our aims were personal not collective. It dissipated like many other attempts at Asian Pride—the cultish “Got Rice?” song of the 1990s, the young business professionals with import model pasts, and all the other suburbs in or around or away from New Jersey with yellow middle-school kids drawing mochis on their English notebooks.

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Placing Obsession

October 13, 2015

If she was a small idea in April, by November, Lucy had become a person—strained, muscled, and as flimsy as guilt. I knew the stiff yellow restaurant she worked at and that Chinese song about the moon she sang to mock her twinkie best friend. I knew that “The Outsiders” was the only book she’d ever really read. I knew she’d kept the same middle school copy in her pocket until the cover ripped straight off the block like an old scar. She was a virgin. She loved driving fast and killing the headlights. She was as suburban as I was. So Lucy was there, birthed from infatuation. She was my muse; she was someone I never wanted to be and someone I’d always wanted to be. Lucy was to me what Sherane was to Kendrick Lamar, what Beatrice was to Dante, what Yunior was to Junot Diaz. She was born from dust, and I loved her.

You don’t have to write to know obsession like I know obsession. You don’t have to create to know what little reward feelings provide, how your personal tragedies sound out loud, how little is left after a relationship’s dissolved like sugar in some wet and blistering heat. You don’t need a broken heart to know that there is nothing as undefined as dissatisfaction. The things that drive you to do what you do are right on the underside of your gut.

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​Before I Wake

September 29, 2015

If I should die, I want my death to be as glorious as life. I want to be swung up in flung fate on the brink of a car crash, shifted in the blank air like broken glass. I want to be the oldest person on earth. I want the knife pointed at my throat. I want to protect something devastatingly right. I want it all: elegies, rhapsodies, tears, news clippings, and those wicked laughs in the backroom. I want my body folded wrong; I want destruction for construction. I want to die from Pop Rocks and Coke. I want to die next to someone I’m desperately in love with. I want to have known that person for three days. I want to have known that person for 70 years. I want to do it like Svidrigailov. I want to grow old. I want to dream up heaven, and I want it to look so much like a Greek mansion that even Athena hides in the kitchen. I want to encompass death, to wear it on my sleeve or keep it under my skin, because, well, if you can’t find something to live for, you sure should find something to die for. {image id=1308748 align=right size=medium}

That paragraph was blunt. I wrote it with abnormal, un-conversational conviction. I wrote it to both glorify and qualify, to make death as close as breath. I wrote it in a world where the dead do not die but pass away, kick the bucket, depart this life, meet their maker. Where death is often viewed as dark. Where death in the media takes form in ghosts, zombies, and other members of the supernatural more often than not. Where death seems unnatural and deviant, something too far to touch.

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Appropriation and Art

September 15, 2015

I bought a record the other day with a price as insignificant as the name on the disk.

I started out by walking down the stairs in a blank corner of Mount Auburn Street. The walls smelled more like piss than the rest of Cambridge. I noticed good speakers, the kind that makes music more intimate than lust. Noticed what came out of them too—a liquid-smooth kind of rhythm, an uninviting and reckless shift of beats—though I couldn’t name the band. Spent a good half hour in the store. Kept trying to find something that would look pretty and simple on red brick walls. Settled on “Can’t Stop the Prophet” by Jeru the Damaja, not because I liked him or I had heard the song before. Liked, instead, the crisp white of the paper, the red sticker on the black record. Didn’t know much about Jeru the Damaja or the song on the disc. Only saw him two years ago in a video on Youtube arguing with Lauryn Hill, the only rapper I knew from the time period, and figured if he was sick enough to chill with L Boogie he’d be pretty enough to put on my wall. Didn’t think about it much after that, even when someone saw the vinyl gummed next to its cover on my red wall and asked about his albums, and I had next to nothing to say.

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