28 December 2007


I’ve been trudging through the snow for the past few weeks. The Charles River – near Harvard, where I cross it – has frozen over and is covered in snow. I’ve never seen anything like it. A few days ago the temperature was mid-30s, and I found myself outside in a sweatshirt telling Rachel it had warmed up a little bit. That struck me as a strange moment, one where I realized I was adjusting to life in a new place. New snow has been piling up over old snow in a series of snow flurries, parks are covered in white, benches are buried, and trees poke from ice like stiff wallflowers pushed onto the dance floor.

I’m reminded every once in awhile that I live in Boston, that I live in a whole new world. A month or so ago, Rachel and I went up to Concord and visited Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, where Ralph Waldo Emerson, Louisa May Alcott, Nathanial Hawthorne, and Herman Melville are buried. We also visited the Little Women house, which in true American fashion has been turned into a gift shop with a paid tour. Emerson’s house was closed that day, but like true literature nerds, Rachel and I peaked in all the windows, and Rachel ate a few of the wild grapes growing in his yard. The house that Hawthorne, Alcott, and a few other writers lived was closed as well, and of course Rachel and I played the peeping toms.

That small town is full of incredible history, including a trail marking the path of Paul Revere’s ride. There seem to be ghosts everywhere. I spend most of my time in Harvard Square, where the oldest church in Massachusetts stands. One day as I was taking the train into school I discovered part of the Redline was closed, so the MBTA had setup a series of shuttles to take passengers to the other side of the closure. When I got off the bus, angry from the inconvenience, I noticed a small cemetery that seemed to be a tourist attraction. Of course I went in and discovered Paul Revere’s headstone, along with Benjamin Franklin’s.

This could never happen in Seattle, of course, because Washington’s history goes nowhere near as far back as New England’s. Part of the reason I left Seattle was the lack of motivation, feeling, connection. I never felt like part of the city or that I had a place in it. Nothing felt right, and it never felt like home, though I guess that’s what it is. Oregon gave me a purpose and a focus and a strange sense of camaraderie Seattle lacked. Every time I take the train to school or walk around the city, I feel like there’s something larger going on, like I’m just a fragment of a great big world. It’s humbling and encouraging at the same time.

25 November 2007

The Music Video Era!

It's officially dead. I guess I shouldn't be surprised. 

Over this wonderful Thanksgiving weekend, Rachel and I waxed nostalgic about music videos and wondered if bands still make them. Remember when Michael Jackson or Madonna videos were premiered on ABC or NBC news? Or M.J.'s fantastic "Remember the Time" video starring Eddie Murphy, Iman, and a hoard of people in some crazy version of egyptian clothes dancing around like they were trying to raise King Tut? M.J. had it right, his videos were events! I worry about the people who've never seen the full "Thriler" video and the making of it. Today in the car some local radio station announced that it played "The best songs of the Video Music Era," as if the  time of music videos is long gone.

I can't remember the last time I saw a legitimate music video on MTV or Vh1. Maybe that's because I don't watch those channels, but I think what made me stop watching in the first place was the replacement of music videos with awful reality shows. And who can blame them? Who needs an artistic, well-directed 3-minute visualization of your favorite song when you can watch a woman poop on the floor of a mansion? (So I caught that episode of Flavor of Love).

That reminds me, is TRL still on? Or Vh1's Top-20 countdown? Are those the last remnants of the music video, or are they gone as well? I'm afraid those wonderful wonderful videos have been replaced by Beyonce's shitty DirectTV jingle, complete with dancing choreographed by the cartoon cat from Paula Abdul's "Opposites Attract" video. Except that cat could dance.

I miss music videos. I don't really want to see Fergie "dancing" to her "music." But I guess that raises the question of the status of music now, which I won't talk about because I don't feel like my head should explode at the end of a nice holiday weekend. I miss Busta Rhymes' crazy costumes and yelling "Wooooohaaaaaa!" And A-Ha's journey into combining animation and video in "Take On Me." The Smashing Pumpkins once redid the classic "Rocket to the Moon" with their "Tonight" video. More recently, Incubus's lead singer followed A-Ha's lead by animating himself  in "Drive" or whatever that song was called.

Maybe there are still music videos around and I'm getting old. 

21 September 2007


In The World According to Garp*, there is a scene where Garp writes a short story about a man who can do fantastic things like play piano so long as he has gloves on. Without them, he can't do even the simplest things, like touch his children. This of course leads to drastic action and drastic consequences. I love the idea behind this story because I love stories that present otherwise competent (and even heroic) people with human (and of course ironic) flaws. Dr.Jones' flaw, of course, was his fear of snakes.

Right now, I feel like I'm trying to be a writer who is unable to find words.

*I'm referring to the movie here, since I have not read the John Irving novel of the same title.

28 August 2007

I’ve been in Boston for a few days now, and tomorrow my parents leave. I get to sleep in my bedroom, on my own bed, for the first time. The apartment is beginning to look like a home, at least my bedroom is. David will be here tomorrow, but I don’t think he’s staying the night yet.

As the time to move approached, people constantly asked, “Are you getting excited?” or something like it. Never failing, they were always surprised when I said “I guess.” The truth is, even though I’m here, it still hasn’t sunk in that I live in Boston. The closest I’ve come to realizing it was yesterday, looking up at the Boston Public Library. For a second I almost felt something rising up in my throat, something thick and heavy, something stopping in the center of my throat before sinking back down and taking the elusive feeling of home away with it.

Rachel will be here in a week, and I’m sure this place will feel like home one we’re in bed together.

Other than that, I’ve felt sort of numb. Ironically, maybe I’ve been too caught up in getting settled and making this city and apartment feel like home to really think about the fact that I now live in Boston.

* * *

Driving with my dad was interesting. I didn’t really learn as much about him as I hoped I would, although I did finally learn where he was born. We almost drove through the town, but it as out of the way and he didn’t want to drive to it since it was the middle of the night and we probably wouldn’t be able to see much anyways. I still don’t really know where he grew up, although I know there was a town in California that he said was swallowed by a larger town and doesn’t exist anymore. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the name of it, and I didn’t write it down because I didn’t want my dad to think I was interviewing him or that I had some sort of agenda while talking to him.

We talked about a lot of nonsense; we talked a little bit of sense, but mostly we stuck to nonsense. We joked about the unfortunate names of towns like Smelterville and Plainville. I have the same sense of humor as him, so he’s easy to get along with for me. That shouldn’t be surprising since he’s my dad and all, but after not really getting along with him for such a long time, I myself sometimes don’t believe it.

I listened to a lot of his Irish drinking songs and country folk music. While we talked about James Joyce, he explained Finnegan’s Wake and how the cyclical nature of the song shaped Joyce’s story, and I listened to his explanation for the 15th time or so. Then without warning, he began reciting the words to the song. My dad mumbles, and it’s usually pretty difficult to hear him, but while reciting the lines, he locked into a rhythm in no way similar to the song – which we listened to later – but one all his own, articulating the syllables and the words he felt were important. I got the impression he was trying to teach me something he felt was important.

18 August 2007


Back at my parents' house for a few days before leaving for Boston, staying in my old bedroom that isn't really my old bedroom. I always feel fat and lazy here no matter what I'm doing. The days have been clear, just the way I like it. On days like these you can see for miles and miles, and in every direction, mountains guard the horizon.

I have muddled thoughts on Oregon. Too muddled for a QWERTY keypad to make sense of.

09 August 2007

Unfinished Business

In less than two weeks I begin driving from Seattle to Boston, and in less than a month I begin graduate school in a creative writing program. I'm supposed to become a writer, I think. Normally, even if I don't write, I have these thoughts going through my head about weird situations that could crawl into my stories or characters I want to learn about and develop. I haven't had any of that for the past 2 months, since the end of Spring term. Even the instructor evaluation I'm supposed to write by the end of the month hasn't gone past the second sentence. Needless to say, I'm incredibly frightened about the upcoming months, all of it - the moving, the new place, new people, new city, new school, new life.

While packing up my apartment, I came across a number of journals I'd attempted to keep over the past few years. The first entry in every one is pretty much the same. It reads something along these lines: "I have to start a new journal now, because I feel like every new journal represents a new phase of my life." Ideally, that means I could take these journals and break them down into chapters and write a book about them right? Instead they read like a bunch of unfinished juvenile business. "Today I went to class. I like it." Or "Yesterday she gave me her love in the form of baked goods." Each book ends suddenly, with no declaration of a final entry. Instead I just start up something new, and - this is how I've felt with each change of scenery - never finishing the last thing.

Except now I've actually graduated from OSU, so at least I finished something right?

Today was also the last class of my TAship, the first classroom experience I've had as a pseudo-instructor. I guess I could say I finished that as well. As they were walking out of class, one of the students came up to me and said, "So you're going to be around during the term if we need help?"

17 July 2007

Drivetime Salute!

Every time I drive between Eugene and Corvallis I discover a new sort of calm in the rows of trees and shrubs or whatever it is growing out there. There's that certain angle in each field where you can stare down the row, and the countless lines reveal themselves like the fragile teeth of a comb. In a car that angle is visible only for a brief moment, but in the next moment the next row appears, then the next, and the next, like the gentle and endless arrival of a new wave on wet sand. The rows of trees are the same but different. At ground level you can see their trunks poking through the dirt like the long arms of nature in an entirely unnatural grid pattern. At the tops of each of these skinny brown arms rests a ball of green clenched fist. What is most amazing, however, is the way these fists mingle and mix amongst each other, creating the illusion of one giant treetop.

It reminds me of this incredible piece of artwork I saw and walked on at the Seattle Art Museum a billion trillion years ago. It's called "Floor" by Do-Hu Suh.*

On to something new.
I'm moving to Boston in just about a month. I have the troubling task of balancing spending time with Rachel and getting settled in Boston. And now another dimension has made its way into the picture. My dad and I have talked about driving across the country, possibly and probably stopping in Indianapolis to see my two-year-old twin nieces. I also just started reading Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, and the connection (or lack thereof) between the narrator and his son reminds me that there is so much I don't know about my father. This fact is made all the more frightening by my slow but consistent evolution into that man. Robinson writes with an incredible and simple beauty that seems to have made my emotional senses more intense and acute (I hid a tear from Rachel as a keystone character in Ratatouille remembered a moment of his childhood). But now more than ever I really feel that I not only want to drive cross-country with my dad, but I need to, to talk to him and learn about the history I don't know. I need to know what his father was like beyond the shriveled, weak man that couldn't remember my existence or how my Filipino mother somehow got so tan. It's important to me to know where it was that my dad decided it would be a good idea to put a small piece of a railroad track in his bicycle basket and ride as fast as he could down a rocky hill, or why he spent his 16th birthday in jail. All I know is that he flipped his bike over, and his response to the birthday behind bars was "I lived in a small town, so that was a little different." This drive could possibly reveal a lot I don't know about the man I should probably know the most about, and if not that, I'm sure it will at least give me some stories to write about.

*Photos taken from http://www.democratici.sm/appuntamenti/venezia/venezia.htm without permission.

13 July 2007


When I lived in Hawaii, up until I was nine years old, I went to Saint Joseph's Catholic School. Boys from kindergarten up to 8th grade all wore the same thing - blue slacks, white button-up shirt, and white shoes. Girls wore blue jumpsuit looking dresses with white collared-shirts underneath. The higher grades, 6-8, were allowed to wear the blue St. Joseph's windbreakers. I envied them, no matter how hot it may have been, especially during P.E. time, which consisted of lining up in equally spaced rows and doing jumping jacks and other exercises led by one of the jacket-wearing kids. I wouldn't have called them kids back then, even though one of them very well may have been my brother.

The school didn't have a playground, so during lunch/recess, we'd eat our food as fast as we could then run outside to play tag on the school grounds, which was little more than a large parking lot. On especially wild days, some of us boys would bug the jump-roping girls, and they'd chase us around pretending to be angry but not hiding their smiles or giggles. I remember though, one relatively calm day, when my best friend "Bubba" (nicknamed for his skinny, miniature stature) and I used the oversized Smarties candy and pretended to give and receive communion. Our first communion wouldn't be until the next year, so we were too young to know what really went on during the Eucharist. Honestly, I still don't completely understand the ceremonial first communion. On that day, under one of the few covered areas of the school grounds, which only now do I remember being surrounded by chain-link fences, Bubba and I took turns giving and receiving the pastel colored, sugar based body of Christ. I don't recall much about Bubba, whose real name was Jeffrey, but I do remember his goofy dwarf-like face giggling and smiling, trying to hold back fits of laughter. I also remember on that day, we called our little game "Chameleon."

27 June 2007


We just got back from Boston, and I have nothing but fantastic things to say. The city is beautiful, from the subways underground up to the streets, and all the way up to the 27th floor hotel room that looked out over the rooftop decks and gardens. During an evening thunderstorm, Rachel and I watched the lightning flash through the clouds and down into the sky over the lights in buildings. We had great food and met awesome people. I'm sure we hoped to meet nice people, but really, I think everyone we met was beyond any expectations I may have had - we even learned about the Great Molasses Flood during an impromptu historical tour from a realtor. The only exceptions were the two people we met from New York, and both of them were real bastards.

09 June 2007

Today I proved that, no matter how badly I want it or how much I might try, I still can't be counted on.

05 June 2007

Comings & Goings

This weekend, Rachel and I drove down to Grants Pass to visit her parents. In the car, both going and returning, we talked about where we've lived and where our parents have lived. She again pointed out how weird it is that I don't know where my parents are from. I know, it probably seems weird, but I don't. I love my parents, and I'm very close to them. Hell, I realize every day that I'm turning into my father. The point is that I know my parents; I know their personalities, their characters, what makes them laugh and smile, and what makes them angry and frown. For some reason it's just not that weird that I don't know where they were born or where exactly they grew up.

This, of course, might explain why I feel like I don't really have a place I would call home. I've written stories about the house in Hawaii where I spent the first nine years of my life in, but, as the aforementioned story says, the house has been gated off with a tacky display of black bars and failed ornamentation. The other house I grew up in, just north of Seattle, holds almost no hints of my having once lived there. My old bedroom has been converted into a guest bedroom, and only at night, with all the lights off and the room pitch-black, do the final remnants of my occupation reveal themselves: glow in the dark star stickers. Since moving out of that house, I've lived in a crappy apartment in Seattle, my gramma's house in Hawaii (which, the land it sits on holds another strange treasure chest of stories), an old, red-bricked house in Seattle, a crappy apartment in Oregon, and the current not-as-crappy apartment in Oregon. In a few months I'll be venturing out to Boston, adding another location to my list of wanderings. I'm not sure I'll call that home.

Because of all this, I feel devoid of any real sense of history. My mother's parents came from the Philippines during their lifetime, and my father's family came from Ireland to Canada 200-some odd years ago. All I really know about my mother's family is that her dad loved Budweiser and died when I was too young to even realize that he was sick but not young enough that he wouldn't sneak me the occasional taste of his beer. Oh, and he had the kind of smile that really made you feel the happiness behind it. Her mother didn't like me because I'm half Caucasian. My dad's mother died when I was two or three or something, and his dad had dementia or alzheimer's so bad he forgot who I was. He did remember my mom, surprisingly, yet he never forgot to ask her how she managed such a dark and even tan. Oh, and when his family came over from Ireland, they tried to cross the great lakes and a great many of them drowned. Oh, and apparently, somewhere down the line, some males named Homer, which was apparently a common name in his lineage, was put in some sort of crazy house but still managed to procreate. Yes, I'm proud.

That's a sort of history, I guess, but I'm not sure where I'm left or where I'm going.

04 April 2007

Bicycle, Bicycle!

My father believes everyone that rides a bike as their primary means of transportation is only doing so because of a DUI resulting in the suspension of their driver's license.

17 March 2007


"Congratulations," she said, her hand extended and open. A handshake. Her face wore a smile and that's it.
I expected some surprise, some shock. An "I can't believe it" or something like that. Nothing, and that's the best part. As I get more and more stressed out about the upcoming process of getting myself to Boston and trying to find a place to live, getting to know new people, convincing myself that I can write, all that crap, one of our creative writing professors extended her hand, shook mine, and plainly said, "Congratulations, that's a great school."
"I'm scared, totally excited, but scared as hell," I told another professor.
"Trust me, you're ready. Boston is great. You'll have a ton of fun, and you're totally ready."
I don't feel ready. I just hope that when the time comes, I will be. I am frightened at the possibilities in front of me, of the things that I may or may not accomplish. I am excited for all these things, but I am scared as hell.

16 March 2007


I could listen to the click-clack of the keys all night. My head throbbing, pulsing with the crash of each letter as it imprints itself on the page. I just sit and listen, watching every letter appear like magic behind the weird metal foot that presses the ink. This is the power that I have, a power that is completely reliant on other forces. The paper, the letters, the words sentences paragraphs pages narratives stories truths lies dreams fantasies emotions anxieties that lay buried beneath each thin sheet of paper.

I could listen all night, and I could watch the letters appear and the words form to the flow of my fingertips. But when the night shuts its eyes, I haven't found a truth and I haven't made any sense of these crazy things that makes my head throb. That is the power that has me.

14 March 2007

the shakes

Sometimes I feel a slight shaking beneath, maybe inside me. I look around and no one else seems to notice. I wonder if it's an earthquake, or the beginning of one. Maybe the earth is settling beneath me, exhaling a breath it's been holding in for so long that it finally needed to get out. Maybe the subtle trembling is the hint of something larger to come. Nothing happens though, and no one seems to notice.

23 January 2007

Nonsense and Freewrite

My grandfather's house had this room, at the front of the house, that my brothers and I, as children, were not allowed to enter. Looking back, it's completely possible that we were allowed to go in there, but there was something secret and pure about it. It was the only room in the house that seemed to ever have light, this due to its location facing the street, looking out over a southern California suburban paradise. The rest of the house was dark and cold. I can't even remember the colors of the living room, except the gray. The gray smothered everything. Brick walls, cold tiled floor and ugly Grandpa rug, stone fireplace, all gray.

The kitchen countertops were all a tacky green marble, a remnant from the 50s or the 70s or some other time where people must have been color blind. An empty space between the cupboards and counters created a bar area, and at the end of the kitchen was a small hallway through a washroom to the door that opened to the backyard. The small rectangle window on the door was the only window in the kitchen.

In the backyard was a swimming pool, shaped like a lima bean or a kidney, surrounded by decaying grass. The pool shone pristine and blue, bright as a diamond, bright as the forbidden room. In the deep end, 8 feet down, bolted to the bottom, was a bronzed seahorse.

We - my parents and three brothers - would visit my grandfather in the summertime, excited for the chance to swim in a pool. Growing up in Hawaii, you would think swimming wasn't a big deal. We could go to the beach whenever we wanted, but to have a pool all to ourselves, where no one could bother us and we could ignore the rest of the world, that was treasure.

My grandfather, Harry, watched from the patio, protected from the sun by a beige awning. Every once in awhile he'd walk up the pathway toward the pool only to stop halfway there, at a weathered sundial. The stone of the thing cracked and it had lost its color ages ago, but the grass at it's wide circular foot flourished and each blade hung over itself, pulled down by its own weight. He'd stand there with his hands on his hips, fingers stroking the corduroy in search of stimulation, eyes fixed on the gnomon.

I was afraid of my grandfather. I was 9 or 10, maybe 6 or 7, shit I don't know. The fact is years would pass between seeing him; he was nothing more than a stranger I was related to.

As he stood before the sundial squinting his wrinkled gray eyes, watching so hard it seemed to hurt him, I walked over and stood next to him.

"What are you doing Grampa?" I asked.

He looked down at me with those gray eyes, reached his hand out to touch me, dropped it on the back of my neck. I froze under his leathery palms, tried not to imagine the thin hairs growing from the back of his hand. He lifted his hand and looked at it, inspected the moisture that clung to my neck from the swimming pool and now clung to his palm. He rubbed his hands together and looked at down to me again.

"Trying to make the shadow move faster," he said.

16 January 2007

Short Writing Assignment

My grandfather’s days had been reduced to staring at, not watching, daytime television on the faded blue couch in his living room. He kept the curtains drawn all the time. With the sun shut out, shadows colonized every surface, and the house seemed to exist in a perpetual state of gray. The once vibrant mountain scene, painted and hung above the fireplace by my grandfather, had long since lost its color, just as his thin, wrinkled body had lost its pigment. When he lifted his arm to aim the remote, his body trembled with the effort and the loose heap of cotton and corduroy would shake and dance like flags at half mast.
If I looked hard enough, I felt I could see right through him. In fact my brother and I would be playing with Hot Wheels or GI Joes on the cold hardwood floor and would forget he was even there at all. His voice was almost inaudible; a wandering whisper that tickled our ears then passed on and faded away. The television would get louder or the channel would change, his way of reminding us that we weren’t alone. I hesitate to call his existence living, but, as a six-year old, I couldn’t understand there was once more to this haunt of a man.
The only hint of a former life was a police badge, framed and mounted on a small portion of wall just to the left and perpendicular to the front door, a place suitable for a coat rack or an umbrella stand. I remember looking up at it, wondering how it maintained its shine in this house of ghosts. Now I couldn’t tell you the numbers, or if there were any at all, and I couldn’t testify to its design, or the city and department it came from. All I can say is this: looking back, my grandfather failed to block the panes of the semi-circled window on the front door, and occasionally the Pasadena sun forced its way through the small opening. When it did, the gold police badge lit up, illuminated amidst a dull haze, and became a reminder of a man I never knew.