Holy Mystery

My parents were seriously ill-matched.

ceremony

Is this all there is?

Neither ready to live grown up lives, but rushing to marry because that’s what was expected.

wedding

Til death do us part

In their wedding pic, I swear my mom is bending a bit so she won’t tower over my father.  I wonder how much she cared about.  I was reading in Louise Bogan’s bio about how her mother shot up four inches past her father after they got married, and how her mother never forgave him for that.

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They try to tell us we’re too young

In elementary school, a friend’s family invited me to be in her first communion ceremony and it looks like my mom thought it was a good idea.  Crazy though because I don’t think my friend was old enough to marry God.  Is anyone, really?

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It’s a holy mystery

But look at my super-cute dress.

Sorrow is my own yard

where the new grass

flames as it has flamed

often before but not

with the cold fire

that closes round me this year.

Thirtyfive years

I lived with my husband.

The plumtree is white today

with masses of flowers.

–– excerpted from “The Widow’s Lament in Springtime” by William  Carlos Williams

 

 

 

Tradition

Find order in the universe.

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What to order?

I was an expat in Korea for some three years.  I was there to visit my parents who’d gone back in 1997.  When I got back to New York in 2005, one of my first stops was the Oyster Bar in Grand Central Terminal.

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My Own Private Idaho

I realized right quick that I needed to establish some traditons for myself: Oyster Bar & Noodletown.

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The oyster of the world

The thing about being a displaced person is that you are caught up in a lot of other people’s stories with yours being put on the back burner.  Living in Korea for the years that I lived there was both a challenge and a gift, but I knew I couldn’t stay forever.

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Tradition: Singapore Mai Fun

I am sad about that.  I often wonder what would have happened if I had stayed, married a Korean guy, and set up house.

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Duck 2013

I’d probably be up in my ass with babies and laundry.

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Bon appetit

But then I wouldn’t have met this guy.

I never told the buried gold

Upon the hill – that lies –

I saw the sun – his plunder done

Crouch low to guard his prize.

––Emily Dickinson, “11”

Possibility of Existence

I went to a small liberal arts college.  It was really expensive and a lot of rich kids went there.

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As Fanon Said

For a kid like me who grew up in a deeply immigrant section of upper Manhattan, I didn’t understand this dynamic.   These college years were a challenge to my Korean identity as much as growing up in my densely Puerto Rican and Dominican neighborhood.  No surprise how naive and impressionable I was.

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The Mask

The work to create a healthy self-image in these caustic environments is neverending.  As Fanon explains in his brilliant Black Skin, White Masks, the black man, in white society, is placed in a situation where he must work to “overcome his feeling of insignificance, to rid his life of the compulsive quality that makes it so like the behavior of the phobic.”   Furthermore, as society sets up obstacles and barriers he may express an “unconscious desire to change color” but the focus must be on addressing the source of the conflict: the social structures.

…the black man should no longer be confronted by the dilemma, turn white or disappear; but he should be able to take cognizance of a possibility of existence.

––Frantz Fanon

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Face Your Identity

 

He knows what I would like to know:

How a white man came to paint beauty

Into a black man’s face,

& why he left sharks slashing the water below his feet?

–– excerpted from “The Gulf Stream/Four Studies

IV. Self Portrait/Vision” by Terrance Hayes

The Dragonfly

I was in college when I first read Louise Bogan.

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Of enough

I still remember the feeling of being lifted up and bathed in a pure light.   An awakening.

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Planting Fields Arboretum, Oyster Bay, NY

I bet that’s what flowers feel when they are about to burst open to the world after being asleep for all that time.

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Camellia on the verge

I identified with Bogan as a poet who struggled to keep the demons of her childhood in check.  Actually it was just one demon:  her unstable mother who fought with her father, disappeared for regular stretches, and placed her in unsavory situations.  You can read about these Mother-horror tales in Elizabeth Frank’s Bogan bio, but what it comes down to is the most harrowing feeling of being abandoned as a young child that probably scarred her the most.  That scars all of us the most.

Twice-born predator,

You split into the heat,

Swift beyond calculation or capture

You dart into the shadow

Which consumes you.

–– excerpted from “The Dragonfly” by Louise Bogan,

 

 

You’ve Been Gone

My mother, M.I.A all my life.

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Where did you go?

My mother was diagnosed with “early onset” dementia by doctors in Montefiore Hospital in 2012, and I have been lost ever since.

She was straddling two worlds––past and present––for most of my childhood and never found footing in either.  As a child of war, she has been living in trauma for most of her life, haunted by its aftermath ever more.  She married my father, another child of the same war, and they muddled through together by the skin of their teeth.

My mother was damaged.  Did she know she was damaged?  I don’t have the answer to that, but I know I am.  Because I lived through a war too.  The constant fighting between my parents put me in daily emotional and physical peril.

In many ways I am also straddling two worlds because my childhood is merely a part of the continuum that is my life: No matter how old I am, I am still the child I once was.

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December 24, 2014

Occurred to me the other day
You’ve been gone now a couple years
Well, I guess it takes while
For someone to really disappear…

–Patty Griffin, “Goodbye”

Duh, Sit At The Bar

There’s a reason why I sit at the bar.

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Admiral’s Inn Bar, Antigua

The last dinner we had at a neighborhood spot was not choice.  Though I like this restaurant a lot, we made the mistake of sitting at a table.  It’s because there was a 45 minute wait for the bar and I let myself be lured to a ready table for two.  I’m glad they were busy on a Thursday night (and they admitted their surprise) as it means their business is not in danger of shuttering, but I know we got caught in the crosshairs: The waiter’s handwriting was in the weeds so I got a “dirty” martini when all I wanted was a dry one.

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Jiwon & Zelma

Also, when you sit at the bar you get to be oblivious to most of the slow-poke awkward waitstaff situations as your transactions take place with the bartender, who usually has her shit together.   And you are poised to be in a position to get some inside scoops!  Like the time Zelma, bartender extraordinaire of the old Admiral’s Inn Bar, revealed the ingredients for her sublime Planter’s Punch.

Yeah, I know there are children starving in Africa and the Syrians are under constant bombardment by their government, and the Chinese under threat of prison for speaking their mind: First world problems are nothing compared to the turmoil and suffering of the rest of the world.  So best not to unleash any more problems into the universe and just sit at the bar.

Zelma’s Planter’s Punch

(Zelma never revealed the quantity of ingredients so the Boyfriend had to figure them out)

The ingredients *

dark rum

light rum

orange juice

pineapple juice

lime juice (freshly squeezed, please!)

sweet vermouth

creme de cacao

grand marnier

angostura bitters

grenadine

myers rum

nutmeg, freshly grated

fruit garnish, cantalopue wedge

* ingredient amounts in descending order

The steps

1. Mix all your ingredients.  Chill.  You could also freeze a huge chunk of ice, put it in your punch bowl and pour the punch over it.

2. Finish off each glass with a dash of myers rum (that’s what makes it planters according to Zelma) and garnish with a sprinkle of nutmeg and cantaloupe wedge.

To freeze a huge hunk of ice:  Pour water half way (or more depending on your punch bowl capacity) in a medium-sized stainless steel bowl and freeze.