About doheezy

I speak better with a keyboard than with my mouth.

Country of Origin

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So here’s the thing about Korea.

It’s an amazing country to visit, one that I’ll always recommend to people if they’d never been or if they hadn’t been in awhile. Korea will always be a great time. There’s that perfect mixture of cuisine, culture, and drunken hilltop shenanigans that will always make it a great time.

Still, with so many countries I haven’t been to, it almost seems like a waste of vacation days for my Korean-American ass to spend it in Korea, a country I’d already been to three times already, a country whose culture and language isn’t wholly alien to me, a country whose experiences I can replicate by flying down to Los Angeles and diving into a bender on 6th and Alexandria(1).

Even if I had to stop by Korea, there are so many other places in Asia to explore. I’d never been to China, or Hong Kong, or Taiwan, or Singapore, or Laos, or the Philippines, or any of the other East and Southeast Asian countries that have been snapshotted and shared with me on social media. I could have easily bought a ticket and set up a trip to go to those places instead of spending the rest of my time off in a country I already knew.

That being said, I don’t regret a single thing about staying in Korea. It’s a country that will always have a deeper bond to me personally, because of the things I learn there – about myself, the culture I come from, but most importantly, about my family.


Sinchon

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This trip was the first time I visited my mom’s parents graves. It was also the first time I actually got to see where she grew up. She grew up in a small town in Gyeongsangdo(2) called Sinchon. When I mean small country town, I mean a small fucking country town. You could probably walk from one end to the other in twenty minutes. You can’t even search for it on Google Maps. You know those villages you pass through on the way to Tahoe? The ones that have a population of 243 and have one road that connects them to the freeway and thus the wider world? That’s the kind of town my entire mom’s family is from.

It’s kind of crazy when you think about it. My mom and my aunts creating lives and families in California, all of them so far from their literal two-horse town. When you think of small towns like this, you don’t imagine a lot of people leaving. Some of my aunts still live there. And yet, my mom ended up raising a family thousands of miles away. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a story that’s unique in any real way, not to anybody who’s read anything by any Asian-American author in the past two decades. But still, kind of crazy when you come face to face with it.

We drove up this winding road and parked the car in the middle of it, where there was this grass clearing that cut in towards the hills. There, you could see the traditional Korean funeral mounds, set along with a stone monument that detailed all of my grandparents’ children and their eventual spouses. This is the closest I’ve ever gotten to meeting my grandparents. I’ve seen a picture of them, I could see where my mom gets her looks from, but I’ve never physically been this close to them. I don’t know if I believe in an afterlife or anything like that, but being in their presence, even though they were long dead, it felt like I had closed a loop that I never even thought to fix.

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It’s wrong to say that I regret never meeting my grandparents. I can’t regret something that wasn’t possible in the first place. I just wish I did. I want to know what kind of people they were, I wish I had a link to see how they shaped my parents, so I could gain a deeper understanding of how blessed I am to have them.

Selfishly, it also underlines how much I don’t appreciate and how much I should.


Itaewon

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I had a period of about five days on my own before my parents would fly into Korea. This was the time I used to catch up with friends that I haven’t seen a long, long time. Part and parcel of visiting Korea so infrequently is revisiting connections that have lied dormant for some time.

But if you know me, you know that my favorite drunken or drug-induced piece of affection to give out is this:

“YoU knOW wHY wE hoMIes MayyNe? We CoULd go OfF oUr OwN (burp) wAys fOr YeaRs anD shIt wOuLD stiLL bE thE (BRAAAAP) SamE ThO.”

So on a certain Saturday night, I hit up my homegirl Vivian (best dogwalker in Seoul, bar none), who I don’t get to see much since she moved to Korea a few years ago. She told me to come to Itaewon, where she and most of her circle lived and partied. For those who don’t know Itaewon, it’s the area that houses a U.S. military base, so it naturally developed into Seoul’s international hub. You can find Turkish kebabs, American sports pubs, and a Mexican taco spot called “Vatos” all within walking distance from the Hamilton Hotel exit out of Itaewon Station.

It’s also become one of the most crackin places in Seoul to drink. Now, when I say “crackin”, it’s all in a scale of what I know. Crackin is when you go outside and you have to play dodgeball with the human traffic on the sidewalk. Santacon in San Francisco is crackin. New Years Eve in New York is crackin. Vegas on a weekend is crackin.

Itaewon is like that, but on a regular basis. And I’ve been told it’s damn near impossible to navigate on holidays like Halloween. It’s like you end up on Itaewon-ro, and you slowly move with an avalanche of costumed drunkards until you finally end up at the bar your friends are supposed to be in. At least that’s how it was told to me.

In any case, I went to a place called Boombar, which might’ve been one of three places in Korea where I heard relatively up-to-date American hip-hop. Obviously, this meant the thizz face was displayed to the confusion or disgust of 95% of the people I looked at in that place. This also meant that the DJ, having just discovered scratching and Jamaican airhorn noises for the first time, would overuse both to the detriment of the songs. Just let that shit flow, boss. No need to go ERR ERR ERR ERRRRR ERR ERRR ERRRR in the middle of all your fucking mixing. And also, going from trap to R&B without any kind of mixing is like going from the hot tub to Lake Michigan in winter.

Still, it was refreshing to see Korean people get down to the same shit that I listen to at home. I stereotype native Koreans to be anemic to any kind of that hard gangsta shit that I listen to on the regular, mostly because I’m not exposed to the relatively small hip-hop scene in Korea. I just have it in my head that everyone gets down to EDM or bubblegum K-pop where even the dudes are caked with five layers of foundation. To see people dancing – hell, knowing the words to some of my favorite hip-hop songs – just allowed me to let loose and let me be my annoyingly loud and limb-waving self.

Of course, when I’m in that zone, I have a tendency to continue drinking until I can’t anymore. The funny thing about Itaewon is that it’s evolved into a neighborhood that knows it can work both tourists and natives with price gouging and serving sizes. A shot of Jameson was about $9 give or take, which isn’t bad until you realize they serve you shots the size of Monopoly thimbles. In hindsight, it’s for the best. You think you’re taking down shot after shot, you think you’ll reach the point where you mind stops writing shit down, you think you’ll wake up in your bed without knowing how you got there.

But no, you just end up surprisingly lucid and awake, especially if you shotgunned a can of coffee like I did before I came out.

After Boombar, the group ended up in Cakeshop, which is the lower level of a three-story bar. After being promised that we would continue listening to that gangsta shit, I was greeted with a wave of German dungeon trance that I thought I’d left behind in San Francisco. It’s that kind of industrial metallic EDM that grinds against your eardrums, the kind that software developers on adderall and ketamine wave their heads to in that unaware, arrhythmic, white person kind of way.

So we went upstairs to Contra, the third level of the three story bar.

One thing I’ve learned growing up in San Jose and spending a lot of time in LA is this – the Korean-American community is really, really small. I’m pretty sure that I’m connected to almost every Korean-American in my generation by three degrees of separation at most. I say this because at Contra, a place where I didn’t expect to run into anyone that I knew from back home, I ran into a friend that I hadn’t seen in years.

Of all the overpriced bars in all of Seoul. But if it had to be anywhere, of course it would be here.

As the night wrapped up and we had all gone our separate ways, the last thing I remember before passing out on that subway train was this:

“Holy shit it’s 5:45 in the morning.”


Ogeum

When the train conductor woke me up, I found that I was in Ogeum, which is the southeastern end of Seoul and way too fucking far for me to walk back to Gangnam.

So I did the most logical thing, I got on the train going the opposite direction to try to find my way back to my AirBnB. Of course, I fell asleep again and ended up almost going to the other end of the line. I don’t even remember what train station I ended up in, but I stumbled my ass outside and got blinded by the early morning sun. After wandering some strange neighborhood in Seoul, I finally got a cab to take me to Seolleung station.

What should have been a 20-minute subway ride from Itaewon to Seolleung turned into a 3 hour journey.

You’d think that in my 31st year on this Earth, I wouldn’t be doing shit like this anymore.


Goyang

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Of all the places I laid my head on my 3.5 week trip to Asia, Goyang was the place where I spent most the time. It makes sense. The last time I was in Korea, we stayed with my dad’s oldest brother in Goyang.

Most of my dad’s family lives in Goyang, which is about an hour away from central Seoul. It’s considered the boonies by most of the people who live there. Hell, some of my friends who’ve lived in Seoul for years didn’t know exactly where Goyang actually was.

Goyang itself is suburban by Korean standards, but the thing about Korea is that even the smaller cities can seem so much more metropolitan than anything defined as suburban in the states. In America, the boonies are so aggressively single-story that the expanse of it all takes away any sense of density and human contact. In Korea, even the suburbs are filled with high rise apartments and multi-story businesses. A suburb, something you can clearly see as separated from the chaos of Seoul, something that’s clearly quieter and calmer, is still denser and livelier than anything out in the sticks in the States.

One thing about Goyang, the food is objectively better. I don’t know what it is – maybe I’m just a townie(3) in the end – but I feel like the farther I get away from the hype, the Yelp reviews, the stars, the Asian girls snapping pictures of all their dinners, the more likely I am to get better food.

For instance, one thing I love eating in Korea is grilled duck. I know, one can get duck anywhere, it’s not really a special dish and it’s not something most travelers know to get. But I love duck and I love combining duck with hot stone plates and Korean vegetables. You could get this kind of duck in Seoul, because of course you can, it’s fucking Seoul and it has every Korean dish you can imagine. But if you really want to do it right, you come to the boonies. You come to Goyang.

Then again, if you don’t have family in the area, you’ll probably never swing by here. It’s like expecting SF tourists to take a trip to San Jose just for the Vietnamese food. Too out of the way. Too little sights to see. It’s just a satellite city. A suburb. A place for people to live, not for people to visit.

It’s only a place that means something if you have a reason to be there. My reason is the family that I will never see in America. The family that I only see if I get the chance to visit Korea, which would be more often if I wasn’t so focused on seeing the rest of the world like the rest of my money-squandering millennial peers.

So I spent two weeks in Goyang. There’s nothing of import to really tell, except the one time my dad guilt-tripped me into going to the sauna with him and my oldest uncle. I won’t make it a point to go to a place where I’m buck naked with my family, but hey, I didn’t visit Korea just for myself. I visited with my parents because I haven’t spent a lot of time with them lately. The sad thing is, the way my life is playing out, I’ll probably see them even less.

I liked Goyang because it’s a place where I can pretend to be a better son than I actually am. Which is sad because that place should be in Campbell at my parents’ house, and I shouldn’t have to pretend at all.


Lower Pacific Heights

It’s been a month since I left Korea.

Lately I’ve been watching a lot more Korean movies and dramas, listening to a lot more Korean music, exhibiting the kind of wannabe behavior that I made fun of when I was in school.

The difference between this trip and others is that I came away with this strong desire to bridge the disconnect between myself and my ethnic motherland. Talking with my cousins is an exercise in sewing together disparate words to try to convey complicated ideas and emotions. I’m grasping for air everytime I talk to them. I don’t know how to get to know them on a deeper level. I don’t know how to learn about them, to get closer with them, to go beyond the familial duty to love them because they’re family.

I used to be ok with being completely American. I look at my blue passport without any drawing any significance from it, like most people do when they go through customs upon arrival. I used to accept the fact that I wouldn’t really connect with my Korean core, because my life and my dreams are irremovable from America.

I’m not saying that’s completely changed. I’m an American. It says so on my passport. It’s what I write on my declaration form. I’ll never run away from that and I will fight anyone who says that I don’t belong here. I’m an American first, that’s just how it is now at this stage of the game.

I’m just saying that being Korean is something I shouldn’t necessarily ignore either. I shouldn’t pick and choose the parts of being Korean that I like or relate with. If I’m going to come back to this country – and I know I am, I just can’t stay away from the food – then I have to come back with a deeper understanding of how it works. It’s only fair to the people that have shown me such love without understanding an ounce of my attempts to reciprocate it.

(1)Or if I’m lazy, take the Caltrain down to the South Bay, call up the homies, and get drunk off of soju on El Camino.^

(2)For non-Koreans, Gyeongsangdo is a part of Korea that surrounds Busan, which is at the southern end of the country. It’s known for beautiful women, amazing food in general (but seafood especially), and a really loud and confrontational dialect of Korean.^

(3) My brother Paul once said about me: “What’s in a name? A Doh by any other name would be just as Campbell.”^

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Lost in the Heat of it All

The following is a distillation of all the drunk and sober notes I wrote while I was traveling in Japan. It was the first time I’d ever been to Japan, as well as the first time I ever travelled by myself.

Most of these notes are going to be philosophical, emotional, and sentimental in nature. Some of these notes will be useless observations that felt like they needed to be documented. None of this is going to make a lot of sense.

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Thing I hate about Japan #1: It’s fucking humid in October. Un-fucking-acceptable. I was taking showers twice a week day like I was back in Vietnam in April. Shit was not tight.

I should’ve taken the time to go to the Grand Hyatt Tokyo, just so I could spend 20 dollars on a highball cocktail, scan the room to see if I can find my personal equivalent to Scarlett Johansson, and enjoy Tokyo the way that only two alienated people can. We could drop our guards with one another, be open to each other in a way that two strangers would know. The temporal nature of the relationship makes it easier to share the deepest, darkest parts of ourselves, because we know we won’t see each other again, and we know that we’re all we have in a place that tolerates us, welcomes us even, but doesn’t claim us.

But I didn’t, because I didn’t bring that much money with me. So I did the next best thing. I went to Golden Gai in Shinjuku and made friends by singing Usher songs at Champions. If you’re having trouble making friends in Tokyo, just go to Champions and sing some songs that you know your fellow ex-pats would enjoy. And who doesn’t enjoy Usher? Who doesn’t know the words to U Remind Me? Fucking animals, that’s who.

People have asked me what the most memorable part of Tokyo was. I wish it was something as exciting as a monkey park, or as juicy as being waist deep in the crevices of Tokyo strange. I don’t want to tell them that it was the 15 minutes I spent wandering around Shinjuku on my first night in Tokyo.

I think I was still under the shadows of a cold that I got on my arrival to Seoul a couple days before. I’d just finished eating one of the spiciest curry katsu’s I’ve ever had in my life, which was throwing fire at the walls of my stomach. Still, I made it a point to myself to get a drink and try to meet people. This was the entire fucking point, right? Get out of my head and start talking, good things tend to happen when I don’t think too much.

The only problem is that I didn’t know how to read Japanese and I already distrust Yelp to tell me where to go, so my only way of figuring out which bars to visit would be wholly determined by how much I liked their signage.

So I plugged my earbuds into my phone, played some Nujabes, and set out from Coco Ichibanya at Shinjuku Station to the city that moved around me.

My mind began to wander away from what I wanted to accomplish to what I was listening to, and how it slowly began to synchronize with everything I was experiencing as I took random lefts and rights through Shinjuku.

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I could see the things that inspired him to make what he made. I could see it in the dreamlike landscape of Tokyo, the neon signage, the colorful and geometric couture of the denizens, the fast moving chaos of people walking everywhere, and the inscrutable, unseen, unheard cadence that was orchestrating that traffic.

It was a beautiful moment of realization, even if it doesn’t offer any lasting life lessons or anything I can monetize into more wealth. And it sticks out as the one thing I remember the most about Tokyo. It wasn’t Asakusa Shrine, though I loved walking through there. It wasn’t Golden Gai, though I loved making friends there. It wasn’t Shinjuku itself, it wasn’t Roppongi, Nakano, Shibuya, Akihabara, Harajuku, Ginza, Akasaka, or any of the neighborhoods I found myself wandering through in the four days I spent in Tokyo.

It was that 15 minutes of getting lost in my own head as I listened to a song I’ve listened to for 25,000 times in my life. It was listening to a song that got its birth from the air, the lights, the sounds, and the landscape around me. For the first time, the song made the most sense it ever could.

And for the first time in a long time, everything that mattered in that moment made sense, which is all I needed.

Thing #2 I Hate About Japan: Why even bother selling me a Tokyo Metro-only pass when there’s a card that works for every fucking Tokyo subway line and why would you not sell that fucking shit at Haneda Airport you fucking fucks.

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Kyoto, the city I knew I could love, but couldn’t because ya boy got sick on the first night of a two-night stay though. There’s something about my immune system that completely capitulates whenever I’m in Asia. I want to blame the air quality, but it’s most likely my alcoholism.

Anyways, I’ll try to paint a good enough picture here.

Most people recommended Kyoto over Tokyo when I was trying to shape a rough plan for my Japan trip. Kyoto itself was much more beautiful and idyllic of a city, and much more traditionally Japanese than Tokyo. There are so many gardens, shrines, temples, museums, and monuments to see and experience. It’s so easy to rent a bike so that you can cruise leisurely through Japan’s cultural capital.

For me, my favorite moment was walking along this stream on my way to Nishiki Market. I remember it was starting to get dark, the sky starting to bruise, the air finally beginning to unstick from my mellow Californian skin. 

I walked through these small alleyways, taking in the landscape of old Japan. I could hear the movements and laughter from the scattered populace with frightening clarity. You live in a city, you surround yourself by noise and lights and people, you get used to the crowd becoming a mash instead of a collective. It’s like that scene in My Cousin Vinny where Joe Pesci can only get a good night’s sleep in the middle of a prison riot. You can only sleep in a city when you aggregate all those noises into “the city.” It’s much more different when you can hear and see all these individual things by themselves. You can pick them out. You can sense them. You can’t mix them all up into a comforting and familiar flavor.

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After that short journey though those Kyoto alleyways and a small run-through of Nishiki Market, I ran into a bar where they let you shoot airsoft guns at targets, while you drink beer and eat edamame. It’s decorated with a ton of NRA-influenced propaganda, the kind of redneck license plate decor that talks about knowin’ yer raaghts and never takin’ mah gurns away. It’s the kind of bar that my white friends would love and my Asian friends would make fun of. But beyond all the window dressing, the core concept is pretty genius – who doesn’t want to shoot holes in things after getting a little buzz?

I almost asked myself why we didn’t have a bar like this in America. Then I remembered all the stupid things Americans do when they drink.

I wish I could’ve done more. The city was beginning to reawaken from its midday nap. But the sickness and the fatigue had set in, and I could only manage a few whiskeys with a bartender from Guam before I had to trudge back to my closet-sized AirBnB and pack for my return to Tokyo.

I understand why people need to travel alone. I can empathize with this desire to Eat-Drink-Drink your problems away and find your true center as you wade through strange waters.

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It was amazing to come back with a sort of mental clarity and peace that I haven’t really experienced in a long, long time. Each passing year tends to add more anxiety to my life, especially when I think about the checkboxes that are left unticked in this arbitrary list of adulthood. It was necessary for me to get away from this hubbub, to get lost and get uncomfortable, to refamiliarize myself with what’s important and what isn’t in the long haul.

Two things I kept on thinking and mentioning in my notebook.

  1. Life’s a lot easier and happier when you’re not in your fucking head all the time.
  2. Life’s fun alone, but it’s a lot more fun with people you love.

I have all these moments, experiences, places that I’m so glad to have experienced. And the one overriding thought in my head after every smile that Japan gave me was:

“Fuck, I wish my friends were here to share this with me.”

The Frustrating Process of Making Your Own Dinner

Bi9iXMoIIAAAHST

I don’t like resolutions. I don’t see the reason of making promises to myself that I will inevitably break, because those promises are tied together by an arbitrary holiday. There’s nothing special about New Years Day other than the crackling hangover(1) you feel in the morning. Since there are no mystical powers from the new solar cycle binding your promises of self-improvement together, why even make the resolutions in the first place?

So when I made the resolution to finally start cooking for myself in 2017, I could almost hear my subconscious snorting from the deep center of my mind. This isn’t the first time I promised to do more cooking for myself. I remember when I first moved to San Francisco in 2012, I went to the corner market and got all the fresh produce my paltry copywriting salary could afford. Naturally, they were forgotten about until my roommate kindly reminded me to get my rotting shit out of his fridge. While I’ve always been fascinated by cooking, I’d never actually done anything remotely culinary beyond grilling steaks and making “Doh Specials” in college(2).

Cooking isn’t like any other shortcoming I possess. I will drink up any tips about exercise, particularly because I have zero desire to injure my lower back for the zillionth time. I’m a sponge for any professional advice to help me achieve a comfortable lifestyle. I will listen intently to any ladykiller proffering sage words to help enhance my lockjawed bar game. It’s something that I’ve learned to accept as I got older – I’m not good at a lot of things, but I can get better if I just listen to those who’ve achieved what I want.

I’m not like that with cooking. I get annoyed and frustrated when people want to help with my struggle in the kitchen. It’s not that I hold delusions of grandeur about my knife skills. I know I’m shit at cooking. I haven’t done it long enough to be good. There’s no pride to be hurt. There’s no history to insult. But as the fire alarm goes off for the fifth straight day when I’m stir-frying chicken and vegetables together, the last thing I want to hear from my roommates is “I think you shouldn’t use so much olive oil next time.”

IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT YOU THINK. I’m sorry. That was harsh. You didn’t deserve that.

I’m not sure what it is. Maybe it’s because working out, cultivating my career, and getting laid are all very important things, but at a very reduced level, they’re not as important as dinner. I mean, that makes sense on some level of logic, right? Let’s armchair therapy this bitch: I get angry at people needling me for failing at something that’s supposed to be critical to my survival as a singular organism on this beautiful mistake of a planet. All the other things determine my status on this made up social structure, all important to success. But dinner? That’s a major key, like oxygen, water, regular bowel movements, and sleep.

But it still doesn’t explain why I’m especially sensitive to cooking. Cooking in itself is a luxury. I’ve learned through researching how to get a Vegas-presentable body in a month that if one wanted to, one could live off of protein shakes, Powerade Zero, and multivitamins. The real core importance is the fact that it’s edible food, not the fact that it’s made into something delicious, so why is cooking this sensitive, cordoned off section of my very flawed make up?

Bear with me on this, but somehow I found part of the answer at a crossfit gym.

As a first-timer to crossfit, I was obviously terrible at everything. I was bad at man makers, thrusters, cleaning and jerking(3). But these are all movements I had to learn in order to move onto the full class, which is usually structured into three parts – warm-up, some kind of heavy activity that’s either based on weightlifting or gymnastics, and then the workout of the day AKA the WOD.

The WOD is what really gives crossfit its funcrushing reputation. It’s usually an unbroken high-intensity work out that combines plyometrics with dynamic weightlifting for a long sustained period. As a first-timer, there would be WODs where I knew I wouldn’t be able to accomplish. I can barely do 1 pull-up with my 200 pound ass and spaghetti arms, and these motherfuckers are telling me to do 50 in 20 minutes? Na dawg.

But as I progressed, and started sucking less at some of the movements, I came across WODs where I could conceivably complete from start to finish. Ironically, those are the WODs that tired me out the most. They seemed easier than the ones I knew I couldn’t do, for the sole purpose that I could actually do these ones instead of failing miserably at exercising. But because I don’t have an internal excuse to shirk the workout, these easy WODs were the hardest days of my expensive exercise classes.

That’s where it hit me. When I cook, I follow the recipe to the best of my ability. It sucks, it takes me a lot longer to plate the dish than most other competent cooks would, but I do it. The shitty thing is, after all that trial-and-error, I’m still no better than when I first started.

It’s the lack of perceived progress that weighs me down. Because you start learning how to cook by following recipes, there’s an illusion that cooking has a set roadmap towards improvement. You master chopping vegetables, then you master sautéing shit, then you master baking and all that other shit. But I’ve been erring my way through the kitchen for the last six months, and that improvement is still as intangible as my retirement savings(4).

That’s what’s infuriating, the amount of effort I throw into something that promises improvement with each hour I invest into it. 100 hours later and I still fucking suck at it.

I think that’s what separates the good from the mediocre. There will come a time when it feels like all these hours have been wasted.  No matter how much money I spend at Trader Joe’s or how many hours I spend slaving away at the stove, I’m never going to be anything more than a sad bachelor whose idea of at-home gourmet is adding eggs to my Shin Ramyun. So at a certain point, why even bother? Why not just continue ordering Uber Eats and playing DotA for the rest of my life?

Because being that kind of sad bachelor is going to be a huge fucking drag on my quest to get jacked, further my career, and most importantly, get laid.

(1) Note to any 21-year olds reading this: they will only get worse. Old guys aren’t lame because they genuinely don’t want to party. Old guys are lame because they physically can’t party. I still enjoy benders like I used to, I just can’t put myself through that ringer if I have designs on holding onto a job and paying my own bills like any functional adult should. ^

(2) You steam 1 cup of rice, open up a can of tuna, another can of vienna sausages, mix everything together, season with garlic salt, pepper, and Tabasco, then microwave the whole thing for a minute. Once you’re done, you eat this mixture of brokeassness while watching old Fresh Prince episodes instead of working on that Chaucer paper that’s due in 15 hours. ^

(3) I just noticed that all these workouts sound like real sexual. ^

(4) Whoever invented the tax implications on IRA cashouts was probably a strict father. The kind who puts a kibosh on any kind of fun until you’re in a position to take the most advantage of your hard earned money, like when you’re old as dirt and lack the energy to do anything but play golf and go on guided tours. ^

Jumbled Thoughts on My Delayed Flight Back to SFO

Ever since I was a wide-eyed junior transfer into UCLA, I’ve made this trip at least four or five times a year. Sometimes six. At first I’d fly through I-5 armed with a few mix CDs that I could sing along to in order to keep me awake. I don’t miss the drive, nor the inherent loneliness of bombing up and down an Interstate freeway with only Boyz II Men and Usher to keep me company. But I do miss being able to sing with abandon for a long stretch. It’s therapeutic, to pretend for hours that I have the vocal range to wet panties and get money, but now I exclusively fly to Los Angeles. It’s funny how my feelings for LA have changed since I made that switch.

My love for Los Angeles has weathered a little. There’s a patina of disillusionment on my thoughts of LA, which comes with removing one’s self from the faux responsibilities of college and the very real consequences of adulthood. I once loved LA for what it represented – a formative time where some of my happiest memories were spent drinking soju from green bottles and screaming into microphones. There was that one time when I oversalted my soup and ended up vomiting pure crystals on the sidewalk. There was another when I navigated through a fistfight to meet friends at a pool hall that no longer exists. But going back now just represents an era that I can never return to. An era that some of my friends are still in.

I envy my friends. The stubborn dreamers, the ones who couldn’t compromise their futures the way I have. I know why I’ve done what I did. I know that I’ve made the right decisions for my career to fit my current circumstances. I can’t afford to be this stubborn dreamer, someone who throws words at a wall, hoping that one day I can make something that I can live off of. But when I see my friends doing the same, it does make me jealous. I’m also proud of them, of course. Much more proud than jealous, of course. But I don’t know if I’ve ever told them how jealous I am of them, of how much I want them to succeed, to thrive, to become legends, because I never even tried to.

This love for LA, it’s irrevocably changed. It still exists. Nostalgia still washes over me when I see the street signs of Koreatown. Wilshire, Alexandria, 6th, Olympic, Vermont, Western.

I like to think it’s been replaced by this comfort and attachment I have to San Francisco. But I’ve already written at length about how that comfort and attachment is linked to a city that’s shifting away from its original allure. My love for this city has also weathered. It has been, and always will be, my home. My love for my home will never go away, though it’s no longer a home than I recognize.

There’s no longer a home I can recognize.

All I have now are beds that I’m comfortable sleeping in, friends that I’m blessed to still connect with, a family I’m blessed to still have, memories that teach me everything…but the one overriding lesson that drowns out the others is this – I’ve changed because everything around me has as well.

It’s not a good or a bad thing. It just makes me wish I could go back to those days when it felt like things made sense. But I know that they only make sense now because I’m looking back, not forward.

Lahren v. Noah

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Disclaimer: I’ve already spoken at length about what I think about Tomi Lahren. I don’t believe she’s all that smart, I don’t agree with her logic, and I don’t agree with her politics. I’m a Bay Area native, an Asian, and I’ve never voted for a single Republican candidate for President, Senator, Representative, or any elected office. I’ll do my best to be fair to both Tomi Lahren and Trevor Noah, but I feel like it’s only fair that I underline my politics to truly legitimize what I’m trying to say.

Trevor Noah’s had a tough run as Jon Stewart’s replacement. Most of the Daily Show’s audience thought he was too timid. Samantha Bee and John Oliver have taken the hilarious outrage of their former boss and distilled in their own styles, but Noah has taken a more measured approach from the outset. As a consequence, Noah was seen as “boring” even though he espoused the same politics as Oliver and Bee.

But neither Oliver nor Bee mirrored their former boss’ willingness to interview the other side (at least not yet). Noah took from the old O’Reilly-Stewart faceoffs and invited his conservative counterpart to The Daily Show, in what is hopefully the start of an ongoing dialogue between the two new symbols of our left and right wings.

Of course, this wasn’t some magical panacaea where we can all join hands and be Kumbaya about things. Lahren’s buttresses her own righteousness with Glenn Beck’s postmortem of the interview, which is to be expected once she returned home to like-minded people. Noah, of course, went back to dressing down the same conservative news and acolytes that make up the brunt of Lahren’s argumentative spine. There are no illusions that either side compelled the other to convert in the slightest.

But at least the dialogue is happening, which I find more important now than ever(1).

I’ve written before on the outrage that defines political discourse now, and how toxic I think it is. What both sides need to realize is that this whole victimization complex – where it feels like everyone is coming at you for your beliefs – is getting old for either side. No conservative will ever believe a liberal is a legitimate victim, in the same way a liberal will scoff at the idea of a conservative being victimized by mainstream media. Politics has always been confrontational, ugly, and messy. But I feel like we’ve reached a point where we won’t even humanize the other side, which I find terribly dangerous.

As much as some of you can’t stand either Lahren or Noah respectively, hopefully most of you will understand the value of two sides working together to achieve something. A common complaint I hear from both sides is that one will not stop demonizing the other. Well, no shit. I think we’ve proven that we the people respond more to fervent anger and outrage than to nuanced disagreement.

This is why I want Trevor Noah and Tomi Lahren to continue talking, even if Lahren and Noah are imperfect avatars of their representative bases. I don’t believe that Tomi Lahren represents all young conservatives the way I don’t believe Noah represents me and people who think similarly to me. But hell, they’re the best we’ve got so far, and it’s encouraging to see both of them willing to talk with civility and respect to each other.

And of course, this meeting will be dissected, pored over, filtered, and refried to the palettes of the half-thinking base on both sides. But if you’ve made it this far into reading, I hope you’ll come to the same conclusion as I have. Neither side really “won,” since neither side was really convinced of the others’ points. It just seemed like a rehash of talking points both hosts use with great regularity on their shows. There was not, and probably will never be, a come-to-Jesus moment for either side, mostly because the real gospel most likely lives in between the poles that these two represent.

But at least the dialogue is happening.

We don’t have to be so wrapped up emotionally in our politics that we forget to treat each other as equals and with respect. By painting the other side with broad brushes, we accomplish nothing but furthering this poisonous polemic that Donald Trump(2) was able to leverage into the presidency. These aren’t sisterfucking hicks who want to cleanse America of all dirty Godless immigrants (though some of them are, which is fair). We’re not an overly-coddled generation of pussies who’s insistent on calling everyone to the right of us a bigot or a caveman (though some of us are, which is fair).

I will not be defined by the worst representation of whatever group I belong to. Seung-Hui Cho is not representative of me or any of my Korean friends. But if I assert that, then as a man, I have to extend that same courtesy to people I may strongly disagree with. Sure, there are a ton of froth-at-the-mouth-breathing motherfuckers who would love nothing but to revive white supremacy and push out all non-white minorities from the country. But to say they’re representative of roughly half the country is just as false as saying the Dallas cop killer is representative of all Black Lives Matter proponents(3).

No, the world was not fixed that day. We did not come together as a country and put aside our past differences. Both Breitbart and HuffPost raised the hands of their respective champions and declared them the true winners. Look at how they won! Look at the facts he didn’t respond to! Look at the questions that she dodged! Blahgaosghaewouhgargh!

But at least the dialogue is happening. That’s progress. I’ll take it for now.

(1) Which might also be because I’m older and more aware of politics now.^

(2) The most ridiculous thing is that I will one day have to explain to my niece why roughly half of the country thought it would be an amazing idea to elect a reality TV star and overhyped real estate mogul to the most powerful office in the world.^

(3) Point, Trevor Noah.^

When The Shit Goes Down.

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The Invisible Man and Hercules don’t scare me. The FBI, Anti-American Committee, J. Edgar Hoover, President Nixon, President Johnson, Martha Mitchell And her husband or her man or her woman Ethel Kennedy, all the Kennedys Bank of America, Chase Manhattan Rockefeller. None of these people scare me.
What scares me is that one day my son will ask me,

What did you do Daddy when the shit was goin’ down.

– Blu & Exile: No Greater Love

I’ve gotten it all out of my system. All the drunk rage against 3rd party voters and people who don’t think the same way I do. If I’ve learned something about this election cycle, shaming the other side doesn’t move their hearts and minds. The media has condescended upon the people who’ve elected our new president. It’s easy to demonize them as sisterfucking hicks who don’t know better, but it’s a lot more productive if we consider them as people who’ve spoken. They were louder than my group was. They were more organized than my group was. They’ve spoken. We’d be dumb not to listen.

Donald Trump is the President of the United States. That’s what America as a whole wanted, even if it’s not what I wanted, or what you might have wanted.

Ignorance isn’t exclusive to the Republican Party and Trump’s base. Tonight I encountered a Hillary supporter that supported censorship of right-wing news for spewing lies to their base. It’s something I would’ve heard from Breitbart, and it felt dirty as fuck to defend their right to free speech, but it’s still protected. Regardless of the results tonight, this is still America, this is still an experiment, an ideal, a dream that’s worth fighting to make a reality.

America will only die if we let it.

Don’t fight against Trump because he isn’t what you wanted. Fight against Trump if he encroaches on your rights. Fight against Trump if he starts coming for what’s rightfully yours. Fight against Trump if he threatens the integrity of our democracy. Fight against Trump if he endangers our livelihood.

But if Trump ends up being the same president we all bitch, moan, and complain about without ripping the fabric of America apart, then respect the process and make sure your voice is heard in 2020. The Rust Belt and Appalachia sure as hell did this year.

I won’t stop being an American because tonight didn’t end the way I wanted. I still love this country for what it represents, for what it’s given to me and my family. And if all of our worst nightmares come true, if the shit really goes down, then I hope that you and I won’t regret a god damn thing.

Thoughts on The 1 Bus.

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First, if you haven’t done so already, watch Atlanta on FX. It’s my pick for the best show of 2016.

Second, I hope I’m not stepping on anybody’s toes by saying this, but I really hope one day that there will be a show that fully encapsulates the Asian-Am experience the way Atlanta has done for Black people.

Asian-Am material has come a long way. Even network fodder like Dr. Ken and Fresh Off The Boat is doing a better job of underlining the Asian-Am experience than the Joy Luck Club(1) did. Shows like Master of None do a masterful job of capturing Asian characters as simply characters instead of plot devices. American in mannerism, speech, and thought without holding religiously to some immigrant, alien trait that used to define us.

But man, wouldn’t it be amazing if there was a show that captured what it was really like to be Asian in America? To capture a culture without commodifying it? To portray characters without using them as cultural educators? To show how we live, what we value, who we want to be, without watering everything down to make it more palatable to outsiders?

That’d be dope to see one day.

It’s my hope that I wake up tomorrow to an America ready to move on from the biggest clown show in recent electoral history.

It’s my hope that Americans will stop subscribing to polemic on both sides and go back to calming the fuck down, being professionals, and getting shit done instead of slinging conspiracy theories and terrible memes at each other.

I hope, anyway. I’ll be getting drunk in the meantime.

Feel free to attack my integrity as a Niner fan for saying this, but I’d be ok with the Raiders winning the Super Bowl this year.

I know. I get it. I grew up with a lot of Raider fans in San Jose, and they can get uniquely obnoxious about their team. I took special pleasure in seeing Tampa Bay stomp the shit out of the Raiders in 2004. I’ve reveled in rubbing it in my Raider friends’ faces when the Niners were dominant with Harbaugh and Fangio at the joysticks.

But if you remove all that petty subjective hatred that we’re supposed to have for each other as sports fans(2), it’s pretty apparent that Oakland fans deserve to see their team win at least once.

Look, the Raiders are leaving Oakland. Unless some investor group decides to do the East Bay a solid and eat the vast majority of costs to build a new stadium, they’re packing their shit and going to Las Vegas as soon as they can convince enough owners to let them. The mathematics just don’t add up for the Oakland Raiders to remain the Oakland Raiders. I really wish it did, because Bay Area football just isn’t the same without those silver and black bastards making a ruckus up 880.

And the Raiders – which I will grudgingly admit – have some of the best and most loyal fans in football. Show me one person who’ll feel comfortable wearing away colors in the Black Hole, and I’ll show you a fucking liar.

The Oakland Raider fans deserve to see the fruits of a successful Oakland Raider team after being dicked by terrible draft choices and the senile epilogue of Al Davis’ amazing contributions to football, Oakland, and the Raiders organization.

So yeah, I’d be ok with the Raiders win a Super Bowl while they’re still in Oakland. I’m not going to root for it to happen. I’m not going to hope for it to happen. But I’d be ok with it.

When Republicans share Tomi Lahren’s Final Thoughts, I feel like they’re sharing highlights of their favorite boxer fighting a heavy bag.

“I AGREE WITH EVERYTHING SHE’S SAYING UNINTERRUPTEDLY.”

I can see why her Final Thoughts are so shareable. After watching some of her interviews with people to the left (sometimes, WAY left) of her, her rhythm gets thrown off. Her interview with Charlamagne is a good example. She flits from point to point, like a safecracker trying to find the weak spots of Charlamagne’s rebuttals and arguments. If you’re into high-school debates, you might enjoy the technical bob-and-weave of her arguments, but it doesn’t allow her to get into an uninterrupted rhythm that makes her base froth at the mouth.

Lahren is best when you get to hear her argue with the camera, the way rappers argue with unspecified “haters.” That neo-Coulter brand of confrontational arguments, mixed with sassy sound bytes and selective volume to underline the logical fragments of her monologue, it’s really best when it’s a one-man show.

But the scary thing is how alluring it is to be caught up in her outrage. It’s like her voice represents the rising tempo of a trap song(3), building up conservative outrage until she finally drops the hammer on how logically fallible Black Lives Matter is. Then everyone in coal country headbangs in agreement.

It also probably helps that she’s better looking than every conservative or alt-right host on TV. Not to be shallow, but Hannity looks like an angry potato and Alex Jones is just a Confederate version of Augustus Gloop.

(1) AKA the literary version of the Chinese guitar jingle that white people believe to be the Asian National Anthem.^

(2) Don’t get me wrong, I love being petty about sports. Just ask my old roommate Brian.^

(3) Yes, I know I’m 30 years old.^

What I Talk About When I Talk About Ball: Man Defense

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Ask anybody who’s played basketball with me. My game is not based on any offensive superstar the way most ballers are. People back then tried to practice the shoulder-shimmy into the turnaround jumper that Kobe and Jordan had perfected, but I never had the shot to do that. People these days try to copy the inside-out crossover and pull up 3 of Steph Curry, but I never had the handles to do that. Certain guards love the drive-and-no-look pass that Nash made popular, but I never had the vision for that. Certain big men try to copy Hakeem and Pau with the dropstep up-and-under, but I never had the feet for that.

So no handles, no shot, no vision, no footwork. Why even bother stepping on the court?

Growing up, in the few times I lucked into a roster spot in some organized team sport, the coaches always said to me: “Daniel, you have heart.” Most times it can be construed as having that gristled intangible that elevates regular Joes into special team gunners. Sometimes it’s used as an explanation for understanding the greatness of chicken-legged greats like Tom Brady and Joe Montana. But in my case, “having heart” just meant I was on the court because I was willing to run back to defend fast breaks. I don’t remember sniffing a single minute during the championship game of my youth basketball team. Nor should I have, my form had more in common with Sakura from Street Fighter than Klay Thompson of the Golden State Greatest Team Evers(1).

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Shooting hadoukens that either miss the rim or ping harmlessly off the backboard was enough to tell me that shooting isn’t my thing. Neither is passing the rock five feet from the intended target, or dribbling a clumsy crossover off my $20 Shaqs(2). But hell, I don’t mind tracking back to defend the hard charger on a fast break. So fuck it, be Tony Allen instead of Ray Allen.

Here’s the thing though, to play good defense, you need good feet. You need to move your feet to mirror the steps of your man. You need good eyes, ones that focus on center mass, so you can tell the difference between an up-fake or a shot, to know when a dribble is a set-up for a crossover. You need good hands, to capitalize on sloppy dribbling so you can force a turnover.

A good defender is also a good cynic. In almost every team sport, the most effective offense lies in misdirection. Sure, if you’re transcendently talented like Dirk Nowitzki, you can pop a one-legged fadeaway in your defender’s face all day, without even trying to sell anything else. But for the rest of us mere mortals, scoring is based on shaking your defender(s) so you have an opening to shoot. Being cynical is absolutely imperative if you want to be good at defense. You can’t be sold on overexaggerated motions, you can’t invest too heavily one way or the other, you have to stick to the basics. It’s about letting four or five fake motions go by, and making your move when your assignment finally makes theirs.

A good defender is also strong. If an offense relies on misdirection, a defense relies on resistance. Always apply pressure to your assignment. Put a forearm on his back if he’s trying to establish position. Step up to the ballhandler and make him go around you. Take away every easy route, and dare someone to beat you the hard way. Pressure is what breeds mistakes. It’s why the moneymakers are seemingly immune to it, because mere mortals forget all of their fundamentals at the first sign of contact.

Most importantly, a good defender is a good underdog. When I line up next to someone who dropped 10 on the last team, I can’t believe for a second that he’ll score on my plodding, clumsy, non-athletic ass. Being in a defensive position already gives an advantage to the scorer. It’s up to me to stop him, not the other way around, and I can’t stop him if I don’t think I can. Sure, he has better handles, a better shot, more spring in his step, more speed in his legs, and more strength in his body. But he’s still not going to beat me.

Because good feet, good hands, good eyes are all important in creating a good defender. But the biggest determinant in good defense is having a good heart. Knowing that despite your limitations, you came here to do work, and you’ll be damned if some fancy motherfucker is going to take yours from you.

So I make my bones on the court with my defense. It’s not the best. It’s not perfect. I get scored on all the time. It happens, because that’s the way the game works.

But it doesn’t take away from what I love about ball. Defense encapsulates everything that’s brought me here. I’m not the best at anything, not even writing(3). But I’ll be damned if I’m going to be denied what’s mine because I didn’t try hard enough.

(1)Short for the Golden State Greatest Team Ever Yes They Are Shut Up I’ll Fight You Bruh.

(2)True story: I wore $20 Shaqs that had no laces on them for my entire junior year of high school. If you want to give your son a hard knock life, no matter how affluent he actually lives, give him $20 basketball shoes to wear every day.

(3)And writing is my most marketable skill. That and my ridiculously good looking face.

We’re All Going to Hell.

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Preface: I usually avoid speaking on political topics, mostly because I don’t have the knowledge to speak confidently and intelligently about most political matters. But I really feel like there’s something desperately missing in today’s political discourse. So I’m ranting about it, because I’m funemployed and I had a shit ton of free time to write this out.

This might be the least inspiring slate of presidential candidates since Gore vs. Bush(1).

In one corner, Donald J. Trump. A former real-estate mogul turned former reality star to now Republican nominee for President. A man who carries the hopes and dreams of Tea Partiers and poor disillusioned whites everywhere, with the promises of a subsidized Great Wall of America to keep out immigrants who keep taking rightful American jerbs and raping rightful American women. In other words, while Trump has never displayed the kind of business acumen that his brand conveys, he’s a good enough businessman to exploit the opportunity in White America’s growing fear of outsiders.

In another corner, Hillary Rodham Clinton. A career politician who leveraged her First Ladyship into two terms as State Senator of New York and as Secretary of State for President Barack Obama. A woman who fits every stereotype of everything the normal citizen hates about politicians: flip-flopping her positions to pander to her base, exposing her ties to Wall Street bankers who resemble the robber barons of the 1800s, and becoming so out-of-touch with today’s technologically advanced society that she can’t even abide by security protocols of her own fucking department when it comes to sensitive emails.

In other words, we have between us a turd sandwich and a giant douche. And you know what? This is what we deserve. This is exactly what we deserve.

No, not you the individual. You who have researched both candidates. You who gets their news from multiple sources so as not to skew your views to a single agenda. You who carefully vets facts and statistics to come to your own well-thought out position. It is not your personal fault that we have the least inspiring slate of presidential candidates since Al Gore and George W. Bush.

No, it’s our collective fault. We the people have become so fractured, so polemic, so disillusioned that we’ve created a perfect storm of political incompetence. The Republicans could not reign in the beast of their own creation, and so deserve Donald Trump as their nominee. The Democrats did better to fight off their own insurgent candidate in Bernie Sanders(2), but have so created a schism between the centrist and progressive wings of their party that have resulted in the lukewarm reception to Hillary Clinton.

My theory on how we got here is the lack of unity between both major parties. That’s apparent with the apparent manifestation of crazy in the Republican party’s forced allegiance to its Tea Party contingent. It’s becoming apparent with the increasing force of progressivism within the Democratic party. We’re all becoming fragmented and joining our own little gangs, everyone in agreement that this whole system is broken except for the parts that we agree with.

In my mind, we’ve become more like gangs than political parties. And to me, we got here because of our shitty standard of reporting.

I was talking with a friend of mine who works in journalism. We were discussing how journalism as a whole has taken a nose-dive in quality, and quality journalism has become increasingly difficult to find. I mention this because I feel like today’s journalism is tinged with so much polemic and is devoid of all nuance. There is no neutrality, no objective reporting of facts. What I see in the press is pandering to emotion. So many misleading headlines. So many skewed facts. Editorialized narratives. We’ve become so focused on selling narratives that we forget that the facts dictate the story, and not the other way around.

Why is this important? Because a healthy press, one that reports on the basis of fact instead of narrative, informs the public with objectivity and allows an environment where truth can dictate the best way forward. People can interpret facts differently, but their decisions are made on as much truth as man can possibly put on the page.

But when the press is beholden to governmental or corporate interests, when they get sucked into narratives that are based on agenda instead of fact, we get a populace that votes against their best interest.

So instead of choosing our politics based on fact, we become swayed on agendas that are tailored to appeal to our emotions instead of our rationality. I know this is nothing new in history, but this polemic that is tearing our political discourse apart is the worst I’ve ever seen it.

This polemic is poisoning almost every piece of discourse I’m seeing. We’ve become so dedicated to our own specific brand of politics that we forget that politics works best when it finds unified solutions that benefit a plurality, not specific solutions that benefit your own interests.

I’m tired of people rushing to the moral high ground, to stamp their feet on the foundation to see if it holds enough weight for their indignation and outrage at the other side. The lack of empathy is justified by painting the other side as illogical and close-minded, they simply don’t listen to facts or truth.

Well, if I’ve learned anything, yelling at the other side, insulting them, undercutting them, debasing them, shaming them, is doing really well to convince them of your viewpoint. And it’s apparent in all sections of the political spectrum.

It’s no surprise that the current discourse is failing to show fruit. We don’t even want to work with the other side. We just want to paint them as stupid. They’re stupid, stupid racists. Or they’re stupid, stupid hippies. Why can’t you just see what I see, you stupid, stupid person. Why can’t you believe what I believe, you stupid, stupid person.

Has it always been like this? Or am I just learning some grown-up truth that’s been apparent to adults since the end of time? Am I just imagining a time when people didn’t resort to naked demagoguery as their primary tool of evangelism? Am I just imagining that America was once a more enlightened place where compromise was to celebrated instead of forgotten?

Yes. Compromise. It’s such a dirty word when we talk about the moralities of those who’ve been wronged. Let’s take Black Lives Matters for example. Morally, there is no compromise to be had when it comes to police officers killing minority citizens in grossly disproportionate rates. This sounds like an issue where compromise is a hollow victory for minorities. That oppression will continue. That unfair treatment will continue. That to sell out now would be a waste of all the momentum built since Trayvon Martin was shot by a wannabe Wyatt Earp in George Zimmerman.

You’re not wrong, but haranguing cops everywhere from a soapbox isn’t a solution. Here’s the reality of the situation: there will be no progress, no movement, without buy-in from the other side. The other side has to come to the table. It’s not about proving them wrong and dancing on their rhetorical corpse. You have to reach out to them. Empathize with them. Connect with them. Compromise with them.

Without compromise, we will not achieve anything of note. All we will achieve is being right in the eyes of our friends and followers. Yes, I personally agree more with Black Lives Matter over All Lives Matter. I want African-Americans to walk American streets without fearing legalized murder by the hands of a few stupid cops. I want the legacy of redlining to be addressed. I want to believe in the dream of Martin Luther King Jr, where a child of America has an equal chance to succeed regardless of the color of their skin, or the address on their birth certificate, or the pronunciation of their names.

But I also know that neither side will acquiesce a single inch to the other just because they’re being “proven wrong.” I know that being outraged won’t do a fucking thing to convince All Lives Matter that their obstinance is counter-productive to the health of this country. Outrage, disgust, and offense might’ve worked back in the day. But we ain’t back in the day anymore. Not when everyone is looking for a reason to be outraged.

In my eyes, the only thing your outrage against cops or immigrants or Trump or Hillary can buy is Facebook likes and Twitter shares from your followers. But I suppose that’s all that matters these days, so what the fuck do I know.


(1) By the way, has anyone leveraged a loss as well as Al Gore? Holy shit. He went from being the humorless robot that lost to a guy nicknamed “Dubya” to winning hearts and minds through a fucking documentary on global warming. Anyone looking for lessons on how to fail up should read the case study on Albert Arnold Gore.^

(2) And by doing better, the Democratic party was simply more wanton in stacking the deck against Sanders. Still, I will be voting for Hillary Clinton. Not that my presidential vote matters as a Californian resident, but to abstain, to vote 3rd party, or to vote for Trump has far worse implications. A Trump presidency with a Pence vice-presidency could be disastrous for this country if you’re not a white male. And I’m not one.^

Player Hater’s Ball.

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It’s amazing how one of the most apt observations I’ve ever heard came from a damn Batman movie.

“You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”

If the Golden State Warriors had imploded after their 2015 championship, we would remember them as one of the most beloved teams of all time. But they didn’t, they broke records. Those awe-inspired by the impossible shooting by Curry and Thompson started to detest it.

I’ve already wrote enough about the shift in identity of my beloved Bay Area, and how the disappearance of its working class was breaking down its existing cultural appeal. These Warriors have more in common with the shiny entitled tech identity of new San Francisco than the traditional blue-collar rust belt identity of old Oakland. It’s easy to hate us now. Throw in a boastful VC owner in Joe Lacob, the infuriatingly perfect life of Stephen Curry, and the reliable jackassery of Draymond Green. I would hate the Warriors too if I wasn’t a fan. I’ve done the same to the Prime Los Angeles Lakers, The Big 3 Boston Celtics, and the Superfriends Miami Heat.

And when Kevin Durant decided to join the Warriors for the 2016-2017 season, basketball forums burst into fire and brimstone. The rich became richer, and the poor rose up in arms, clacking furiously away at their keyboards. Flames and despair being pinned onto every thread, with all who set eyes on the chaos turning into pillars of salt.

It’s an interesting position to be in. You live your life as a lovable loser, and all of a sudden, you win the lottery, marry a Victoria’s Secret Angel, and start driving around in a Lamborghini Mercy. You still feel like the same guy you were in the 1999 Kia Ddongcha(1), but you wonder why all of your former friends are starting to talk shit.

I always thought that winning a title would bring us to this point, but I was wrong. There’s another level of success that can only be validated by the whole world baring their claws to tear you right back down. It’s the kind of success that consolidates in the fear and resentment of your less fortunate peers. It’s because your peers know that luck is what drove this newfound success.

In order for the Warriors to sign Kevin Durant, events had to line up perfectly. If Stephen Curry didn’t take that contract, if the player’s union agreed to cap smoothing, if Klay Thompson didn’t carry the Warriors from the brink in Game 6 of the WCF, if Curry managed to sink a shot in the last five minutes of the Finals, it’s really hard to imagine Kevin Durant signing with us.

The two opposing arguments of this move have a lot of validity. It’s easy to understand both sides, which is unusual for something as polemic as this.

1. KD’s decision to leave the Thunder – a championship contending team with him on it – flies in the competitive spirit that makes the NBA special. Jordan never joined the Pistons. Kobe never joined the Celtics. To join the team that he came so close to beating last year, it reeks of weakness.

2. There’s no room to judge KD’s decision when we’re constantly told to take the best opportunity we can to achieve our goals. KD wants a ring. He has an exponentially higher chance of winning one with the Golden State Warriors than with any team vying for his services, the Oklahoma City Thunder included.

The problem I have with argument 1 is it’s ultimate subjectivity. There’s this unwritten rule that transcendant stars should stay loyal to the franchise that nurtured them. But guys like Kobe Bryant, Tom Brady, and Francesco Totti(2) don’t come around too often. So we abide by an unwritten corollary that transcendant stars should strive to burn the brightest by themselves, helped only by the drafting and nurturing of talent as opposed to buying superteammates on the market.

But that’s the problem. All these things are unwritten. They’re things we feel are right, but lack enough logical foundation to put them into stone. It doesn’t make sense to tie down superstars to the franchises that have drafted them, and while fans should get some return on their faith in those generational talents, these talents are human themselves. They have their own goals and desires, and will do what they feel is right to achieve them.

And of course, if you subscribe to argument 2, it implies acceptance of cowardice. To shovel off your own legacy by taking the path of least resistance, Durant is risking how he’ll be remembered when he retires. We romanticize those who face difficult mountains and celebrate their eventual triumph. It’s a wholly American story of a pauper becoming a prince through the sheer pull of their bootstraps. But now, Durant has all the help and assistance he needs to win a title, with probably the most talented team to ever grace the hardwood. The Golden State Warriors vaunted Death Lineup will now feature five All-Stars still in their prime years. It’s unprecedented. It’s un-American.

It makes the league less competitive, and competition is the backbone of the American identity and ideals of free-market capitalism. It ruins the dreams of 29 other franchises. The ring is an afterthought. You might as well call the championship now and wait for this team to inevitably break itself apart. The NBA is a joke, and there’s no reason to watch anymore games. Shut it down. Let’s go home.

The Golden State Warriors have become the Empire, the Horde, the Blitzkreig, the Legion. Unstoppable. Marauding. Evil. Comcast.

I’ve lived long enough to see us villains. I guess it’s a reflection of me that I don’t have any qualms about it either.

(1)For the non-Koreans: ddong = shit. cha = car.^

(2)For the soccer illiterate: Francesco Totti is one of the best modern players ever and spent his entire three-decade senior career with AS Roma. LA might love Kobe, Boston might idolize Brady, but Totti is a god in Rome. And rightfully so.^