Posts tagged with "family"

My cousin Chris

I’ve only shared about two con­ver­sa­tions in my life with Chris — the last of which was about seven years ago — owing to the fact that we live on oppo­site coasts of the coun­try. But Darren and I rec­og­nized him as one of us: some­one who thinks for him­self and doesn’t buy into the whole Chinese cul­ture unques­tion­ingly. This is in con­trast to many of our other cousins, who seem to love their par­ents sim­ply because they were birthed by them, not nec­es­sar­ily because their par­ents are good people.

Chris hap­pened to be pass­ing by for a wed­ding, so I hosted him for two days. It was inter­est­ing to meet him at this point in our lives. I won­der if I’m actu­ally more sim­i­lar to Chris than I am to Darren, mainly because of how our cre­ativ­ity defines us. It was so easy for me to relate and talk to him. And as with Darren, I actu­ally felt like Chris was fam­ily, closer to a brother than a cousin, which is all too rare among my blood.

As an indus­trial designer he does amaz­ing draw­ings, full of vibrant colours that pop-off the page. I asked him to draw some­thing on my dry erase board because draw­ing is a cre­ative abil­ity not in my pos­ses­sion, and I find the process fas­ci­nat­ing. It was a logis­ti­cal chal­lenge because he would smear his exist­ing work every time he rested his hand on the board for stability.

He’s my exact oppo­site when it comes to health. He’s a vegan, while I’d find it impos­si­ble to give up meat, let alone but­ter and ice cream. He just lit­er­ally biked 100km a day across Canada, while my lifestyle could be con­sid­ered seden­tary at best, with only Tai Chi and some mild cal­is­then­ics in my exer­cise rou­tine. And yet we’re the same weight and shape. It’s sort of eerie to see him draw­ing in this video; aside from a shorter hair­cut, it’s almost like I’m watch­ing myself.

The time he spent here passed quickly, as I intro­duced him to the ukulele. Aside from catch­ing up and learn­ing about each other, most of the two days were spent exper­i­ment­ing and play­ing together. Eventually, we went to a music store and bought him his own Mahalo ukulele, which filled my heart with glee. Darren and Jeff are com­ing up for a visit next week, and hope­fully Chris will be able to hitch a ride with them for our ukulele band before we all head back to Toronto for Crystal’s wedding.

Magneta Lane and my Cousin Darren

There’s been a smat­ter­ing of good music lately, but this is the song that haunts me; Love and Greed by Magneta Lane. I added it to my col­lec­tion on the 12th of October, and it’s already in my Top 20 Most Played. By no means is it the best song on the album; it’s just the one that hit me the hard­est.

To hear it as a track by itself is a lit­tle out of con­text. It comes as 7 of 10 off Gambling With God, their lat­est album, and the songs lead­ing up to it charge at a much faster pace. The dra­matic change of tone between the verses and the cho­rus are effec­tive in sub­tly draw­ing you in, against lyrics that should be screamed more than any­thing else.

My favourite part is when Lexi says, “I don’t want recy­cled love / if I did I’d pour wine in a cup / and get all liquored up / and fuck­ing crawl in front of you” when the gui­tar and bass stop, and it’s just Nadia doing the bum-ba-da-bum-ba-da-bum-ba-da-bum under­neath on her toms.

With the way she says fuck­ing with such sac­cha­rine soft­ness, one can’t help but won­der what intense sor­row could have caused this sullen, hon­eyed voice to spit such profanity.

It’s stuff like this that makes rather plain look­ing Lexi Valentine so god­dam attrac­tive, very much in a Karen O kind of way. I guess you could say I have a fas­ci­na­tion with Lexi swear­ing, because she does it so infrequently.

So...

I gave this song to Darren, and he sent me back this reply:

shit this song is on auto-repeat right now.… ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

Darren’s the only per­son in the world who sees love the way I do. ____ knows me in every other way — logic, mind­set, emo­tion, per­son­al­ity, habits, taste — but he doesn’t under­stand my love, which is a big part of me. The only one who under­stands is Darren1 because we share the same quixotic ideas about it. It’s as if we devel­oped this roman­tic atti­tude as a back­lash to how our fathers (broth­ers, who also look the same) raised us with such aloof­ness. This ideal is how we bond.

One time he told me he can’t wait for the day when we’re at his house with our girl­friends, and we’re play­ing Cranium, and we’re just…happy.

This is how I know he’s the only per­son who hears this song the same way too.

  1. Not even my girl­friends have come close to under­stand­ing, aside from Bronwen. []

A Visit From Big Sister

Sushi with Misun

Misun, aka my big sis­ter, vis­ited from France yes­ter­day. We gorged our­selves on all-you-can-eat sushi, and I let her sur­prise me by choos­ing not to know what she ordered for us. Now I wish I had kept note so I could order the same things again.

Sushi with me

It was hard to argue with her about the bill. She kept insist­ing that she pay because she’s older (from her Korean cul­ture), and I kept insist­ing that I pay because I’m the host (from my Chinese cul­ture). I even used the argu­ment that if it’s the elder who pays, then she would always be pay­ing. Unfortunately, the host­ess took her side and refused my money.

She was only able to stay in Ottawa for the night, but before turn­ing in well beyond our bed­times, we caught up as peo­ple can only do in per­son. We’d been keep­ing in touch the whole time we’ve been apart, and now had the chance to fill in the details.

The time I most felt like I knew what it was to have a sis­ter was when we brushed our teeth together in the bath­room. Afterward, we com­pared grey hair, me laugh­ing at her three strands, as I have a steady diet of salt added to my pepper.

Misun's note

When I woke up, I found this cute note, with our faces (includ­ing Dolly’s) drawn on it.

The Case For Nature (vs Nurture)

When I was young, my dad had a fight with his brother over open­ing a con­ve­nience store next to a phar­macy (my uncle is a phar­ma­cist) in a plaza that my grand­mother owned. Both types of stores have lots of com­pet­ing prod­ucts, so the argu­ment was about who would be the one to open their store. I guess my dad won, because he bought the con­ve­nience store and ran it for quite a few years.

After that, I didn’t see my uncle or his fam­ily at all. For so long that I com­pletely for­got that I had a cousin, Crystal.

When my grand­mother came from Hong Kong to visit one year, she reunited the fam­i­lies again, and I saw them for the first time in a long while1.

At that time, the pop­u­lar thing to do was play cards. I had the rep­u­ta­tion as being the fastest, most dex­ter­ous dealer out of all the kids. But when I went over to my uncle’s house one day and we were play­ing Asshole, I noticed Crystal deal­ing exactly the same way I did, except faster, with­out even pay­ing attention.

It was at that point that I real­ized, “This per­son is my family”.

The only other time I had such a stark real­iza­tion was dur­ing my trip to Hong Kong ear­lier this year. At an inter­na­tional buf­fet, we grabbed some dessert from the cart and ordered some tea. My uncle, aunt (both sib­lings of my dad), and I were sit­ting at the table, with deli­cious pas­tries in front of us, but none of us were touch­ing them. When some­one asked my uncle why he wasn’t eat­ing his dessert yet, he said that he has to have tea with his sweets. And it turns out that was the exact same rea­son me and my aunt were wait­ing too. One of these lit­tle quirks that one never expects some­one else to have, and some­times we’re even ridiculed for it, and yet here we were, three peo­ple doing the exact same thing for the exact same reason.

I gen­er­ally believe that humans are more likely a prod­uct of their expe­ri­ences, with a touch of inher­ited qual­i­ties too. After all, I’m almost noth­ing like either of my par­ents. It was only these two expe­ri­ences that made me admit that there’s a lit­tle more of us that’s inher­ited, that we’re a prod­uct of our genes, than I would have believed.

  1. I even dis­cov­ered that I had a new cousin, Darren, who was Crystal’s brother. []

(Mis) Understanding Art

Few peo­ple in my fam­ily seem to under­stand my art.

When they look at my pic­tures, they make com­ments about the qual­ity, or whether or not they’re smil­ing, or ask how much money I make. It’s never about the mean­ing, or my intent, or what I’m try­ing to express. Only one of them saw what I was going for in com­pos­ing this photo of my grandma and aunt with the poster in the background.

They also talk through my videos when watch­ing them, when every bit of pac­ing is impor­tant, miss­ing sig­nif­i­cant estab­lish­ing shots.

Maybe it’s the cul­ture. Very few Chinese kids are allowed to be artists, as it’s seen as too risky or imprac­ti­cal. My gen­er­a­tion of fam­ily seems to be full of accoun­tants, and engi­neers, pro­gram­mers, or any­thing else with secu­rity. Even though piano or vio­lin lessons are com­mon (I can’t think of a sin­gle Chinese friend who didn’t take piano lessons at one point), it’s more of a sta­tus sym­bol to be able say that you can afford the pri­vate lessons and instrument.

This is prob­a­bly why I feel like I don’t relate or can’t speak to most of my fam­ily. When they don’t under­stand my art, they don’t under­stand me.