Category Archives: life

Raconteuring

Jules Cheret

A coworker was talking to me about the challenges and milestones of raising a son. She has a young boy, five years-old, and at some point, he’s going to have to shower by himself. I told her it’s probably best to let him shower by himself next year or so. Then later, the topic drifted into one of the probably most difficult things parents have to go through, coming home to a son who just got into a fight.

A child coming home from school with a bloody nose or a swollen lip is probably one of the most visceral signs to a parent that they cannot shield their child from all of the awfulness of the world. And what’s worse, there’s also the urge to tell your son that in such cases, they might inevitably have to be awful in return. Of course, this situation is not really unique to boys, but in this conversation, we focused mostly on sons.

I don’t have many memories of my parents protecting me from the direct awfulness and violence of the world. To be honest, I never really got into any serious fights. I’ve been sucker punched a couple of times, but I’ve managed to diffuse the situation without getting into too much violence. I’ve come home with a swollen lip before, but I managed to hide that from my parents as well.

One of the most memorable, and perhaps one of my earliest embarrassing moments to me in regards to my parents happened to me when I was around nine to twelve years-old. My neighbor had a cousin who would occasionally visit. She would play with us whenever she’s around. She was a cute young thing, very friendly, and a bit of a tomboy. I had a little crush on her as a kid. Now I don’t know whether it was known or not, but I really didn’t do anything to pursue the matter. What was I going to do? We were kids. But one day, after knowing her for quite a while, for some unknown reason, she wrote on permanent marker on a gate by our house, “Joe is ugly!”

Now, I really didn’t know how to react at the message. I was more bewildered than anything else. And the weird thing is I really didn’t see any point in trying to cover it up or erase it. I remember just moving on, playing with my neighbor, and going about my childish ways.

What happened next was my mother coming home and seeing the message. She didn’t confront anyone about. She didn’t talk to the neighbors, nor did she ask me what happened between me and whoever wrote that message. She just went back out with a permanent marker and covered it herself. I remember being embarrassed about it, showing her a world where people hate her son enough that they would write slurs about him. Not everyone thinks her young son is as wonderful as she thinks he is. But looking back now, that must’ve been quite a day for her: coming home, seeing evidence that someone is trying to pick on her son, and with a quiet dignity, trying to shield her kid from the world’s hurtful slings.

Interestingly enough, that girl was one of my first introductions to the world of sex. No, not directly, but she was the catalyst to so many questions growing up. Her cousin was spreading a rumor that she had relations with an older boy. Apparently, this all happened while that cousin was listening in. I’m going to leave out all of the details, but it was odd that it never really occurred to anyone back then that what happened might very well have been abuse. We never really knew the age of that older boy. And as for her, despite my foggy memories, she couldn’t have been older than twelve at the time. I didn’t really believe the rumor, and I remember compartmentalizing and just putting in a part of my brain that I don’t ever access (a useful trick Catholic school taught me), but damn… the stain of that news around the neighborhood is a thousand times more hurtful than that childish message she wrote on that gate.

Continuing with the drama: the cousin who spread that rumor around; we used to hear him get beat up by his father for being gay. We couldn’t do much about it at the time. We were kids, and I’m not sure if people really did anything for situations like that back then. I don’t really remember much about him. He was a bit older than the rest of the neighborhood kids but he was friendly enough with us. The last thing I heard, he died in a fire in a nightclub. Despite being barely an adult, he was working as a waiter and there was a fire. The club owner was negligent and kept the fire escape locked, trapping many of the people inside. Poor guy.

He was someone’s son. What happened to him was the world’s awfulness coming at full force. That’s the awfulness that mothers fear… the awfulness that permanent markers can do nothing to stop.

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You’re Canadian, You Idiot!

Tim_Hortons

I was recently asked about childhood memories. This was for some future project and here is a gist of what I wrote with some edits.

I don’t know how old I was, but this was back in school. My family and I are immigrants, and we were still adapting to life in Canada at the time. I didn’t have too many friends in my new school, and I was still resenting my new city and the people in it. It was a bad time to be a kid. I was somewhat resenting the whole country, wishing not to be there, probably blaming my troubles as a kid to the whole immigrant move or how different everyone in Canada was. It was not uncommon for me to begin my sentences with “Well, back in my country…” in noting how more sensible, interesting, moral, etc. people back home were compared with Canadians. In my mind, I was enlightening people, or at least demonstrating my pride for the country I just left. I could imagine how insufferable that must have been for some. I mean, who was I? Balki Bartokomous?

Then one day in English class, during some discussion or argument about a topic I’ve long forgotten, I mentioned something about being a “permanent resident” and not Canadian citizen. That was a technical term, and I forgive most kids at that age for not knowing it, but one of my classmate scoffed at my ridiculous sentiment. “What are you talking about? You’re Canadian.” I explained the situation and the difference to her, but she still insisted, “It doesn’t matter. You’ll be Canadian eventually.”

I’m sure it was a very forgettable experience for everyone else in the room. But for me, it was a microcosm of what a welcoming, multi-cultural experiment Canada is, and how wrong I was with my resentment and stubbornly sticking to what made me different at the time. I was being stupid and silly. Why was I being so negative about my new home? It was a wake-up call, and I was grateful to be very wrong.  I’m quite older now, but that was a lasting lesson on multiculturalism, acceptance, and how some people stubbornly stick to their differences for no reason whatsoever.

To this day, even when I no longer live in Canada, I proudly call myself a Canadian and value what the country has given me. And as for that classmate who put me in my place, she has become one of my best friends. Even after eventually going to different schools we’ve kept in touch. To this day, thanks to the magic of the Internet, we still watch hockey together.

Anyway, even now, as I live in South Korea, I try not to be too negative on the country too much because of the lesson from that classroom interaction. For all of its quirks and what some might perceive as shortcomings, it’s still a wonderful country. It’s a still a country most people would be very lucky to live in. I can raise my imaginary flag and proclaim my love for Canada, but not at the expense of my current home. And should I be compelled to explain differences between Canada and South Korea, I try to be as unbiased as I could.

But speaking of differences, here’s the key difference. Back then, I had someone tell me, “You’ll be Canadian eventually.” And she was right. Here, it is not uncommon for me to hear people say “you’re almost Korean!” Heck, I even hear it from people back in Canada. But the thing is I don’t think I ever will be truly Korean even if I wanted to. There is a shared national and historical identity that is very difficult for foreigners to be a part in. As wonderful and as welcoming as the Koreans are, the country in general is still not as welcoming as Canadian society. (I don’t blame them. They have a long history which would explain this, one that I won’t be able to explain in a nutshell.) It’s simply not the same as Canada.

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Random KFC Incident

Whistle Portrait

With women from the Middle East, due to cultural reasons and perhaps my own misconceptions, I try to give them a wide berth. So when I was at a KFC and this woman and her young daughter, who were obviously tourists, were ordering after me, as I sat down and waited for my number to get called, I shoved the seat next to me a bit farther. I wanted to give them space when they sit down.

Before the woman sat down however, she dragged the seat even further from me. I didn’t know how to take that. “Was there something about me?”

“Don’t be silly!” I thought.

They finally called my number and I went to the counter. As I was picking up some extra napkins, my food from the counter disappeared just as I turned back to it. Then I looked back, and the woman’s kid grabbed my food, brought it to her mother; and they were rifling through my burger, chicken, and fries.

I didn’t say anything and waited for them to realize their mistake. I also thought that maybe I made the mistake and didn’t hear my number correctly.

But when they finally realized their error, they went back to the counter and tried giving me back my meal with the woman saying, “No touch! No touch!” my original tower burger hastily wrapped in an amateur fashion.

I have OCD when it comes to germs so I wasn’t about to eat it. I could just imagine that hyperactive kid’s fingers all over my food or their spittle all over my fries and custard.

“No touch! No touch!” she kept saying. I ain’t touching that either, lady.

So I just forced a smile and asked the lady behind the counter for a replacement. Both she and I kinda just rolled our collective eyes at the incident.

Not once did I hear sorry from the woman nor her kid.

After waiting 7 minutes for my replacement meal, I went to the dining area. I sat there shoving chicken down my mouth as I glared at this woman and her kid. My OCD started kicking in when I realized they didn’t replace my tray nor my Coke. Also, my chicken was suspiciously cold. What else did they have their spit and their fingers all over? Visions of National Geographic footage of microscopic creatures I saw when I was a child kept repeating on a loop in my head as I ate. “What else did that kid touch before going into the restaurant? Do either of them have a cold. Do I hear sniffling? Is it cold in this restaurant?”

“Wait, why am I obsessing over this?! Is it because they’re Middle-Eastern? Am I being racist?! Surely, not. But why the focus on diseases?! Hey wait a minute, I’m sure I’d be a little bit grossed out regardless of who the person inadvertently had their dirty hands all over my food. But why say ‘dirty?!’ What is going on really?! And why is this chicken so cold?”

Worst KFC experience ever. I think I’m going to have indigestion.

Now, there’s really no big revelation from the whole experience. No truths about Middle-Eastern women nor tourists. These facts are just incidental… details, mere details to color the incident. What bothers me however is the fact that no matter how emphatic we sometimes try to be towards other people, it’s annoying when they don’t bother reciprocating the same thoughtfulness. It’s not owed, but it sure would’ve been nice.  I’m sitting there, trying to think about other people, and later they just grab people’s meals willy-nilly. And in the end, I end up eating a suspicious meal, obsessing about germs and PC culture, staring and probably menacing a couple of tourists.

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Soon to be Deleted

Chest_Pain

I’m trying my hardest not to write anything about depression at the moment. Unfortunately, listening to Elliott Smith, Sparklehorse, and old episodes of Dopey, there’s really not much that comes to mind.

One thing that keeps coming back to my head however are suicide scenes they sometimes broadcast here on television. In Korea, it’s common for people to just lock themselves in a car and burn something in order to die from asphyxiation. Afterwards in the news, you might see cigarette butts and bottles of liquor unblurred as the camera explores the car. I’ve been wondering why you don’t often see food in these scenes. Of course it might seem pointless to be eating food as you try to end your life, but I figure eating is probably one of the most distracting and pleasurable thing to do as you await your death in a sealed room or vehicle. With me, they’d probably find my sad body with bucket of KFC chicken nearby. It’s very difficult to think of anything, much less smell faint, toxic fumes, as I soothe my depression with greasy bites of chicken. So yeah, if you see me checking in a hotel alone with big bucket of chicken, call 911. You just might save my life.

If I was to give some advice though, other than seek help if you’re depressed or thinking about suicide, is that people should never look up suicide scenes online. I looked up suicide scenes online checking for food (we live in a frivolous era) and stumbled on the darkest, most depressing scenes of the human condition. Alan Black’s ‘Faces of Death’ didn’t prepare me for this. Most of the scenes, usually from what appear to be educational presentations, and they look like they are from developing or Eastern European countries, and without much context, I began to build stories explaining the scenes. It’s a rather grim exercise. Save yourself the misery and watch highlights of Pawn Stars instead.

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A Grim Trend

Fish Folk.jpg

There seems to be an awful lot of death around me lately. Last November, my grandmother passed away. I had to fly to the States for a bit of a memorial gathering. I haven’t seen my grandmother for many years prior to her passing, and in at least a couple of scares, our family had to mentally prepare ourselves for her passing. And when she finally passed away, it was more like seeing the long inevitable, acting in a scene long rehearsed.

Not long after, my godfather passed away. I don’t have much of a relationship with him, but he was close with my father and I do love my cousins. His health has been in a decline for many years now. And while it was a surprise for me that he passed away, I had a feeling that it was to be expected. He wasn’t getting any healthier. A few weeks after his passing, another uncle passed away. Like my godfather, his health was in a decline as well. It’s a bit of a coincidence that he was really close with my godfather and that they both died within weeks of each other’s passing. It’s almost like what they say about old couples dying.

Just now, my landlord just passed away. He’s not a relative, but being my landlord, he’s physically the one closest to me. His death hasn’t hit me as much as my grandmother’s death did, but the fact that I just saw him smiling with his family gathered all around him on a Sunday afternoon a few days ago makes me feel really uneasy. He was a good guy who was kind and generous enough to let me stay at his place for so many years even though he wasn’t particularly fond of the way I decorated and furnished my apartment. I just hope he makes a straight beeline to heaven and not linger around to make his complaints about my living space known.

Oddly enough, we are planning to move to a different place sometime this year. Having my good landlord finally pass away seems to make that decision even more pertinent. Here’s hoping we find a reasonable place in this currently ridiculous Seoul real estate market.

I don’t know if there’s really a point to my writing this week. There have been a lot of people dying lately. It feels quite uneasy.  I really would like to shake it off.

Be kind to people while they are still around. One of my biggest regret in life is not being there with my mother in her last years. I could’ve found another job. I could’ve made arrangements around my life to make it possible for me to be there with her, but I didn’t. I was lazy, unimaginative, selfish, and unkind. I kinda shut it all out. I pretended everything was going to be fine, and in the process, I missed out on so much from a woman who was nothing but a saint to everyone in the family. Be kind to people while they around, because when they’re gone, you might end up writing blog entries about it repeatedly and getting reminded of your mistakes every time another person dies.

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Playing to an Audience

turtle

I haven’t seen Green Book yet. I work, I study, and I have Red Dead Redemption 2 on my PS4. Time is at a premium. Just yesterday, I finished watching the R. Kelly documentary series, a few days after everyone was talking about it. So yeah, I’m often late or find myself catching up on things. Anyway, I was ready to watch the Green Book sometime this upcoming weekend when I learned that the Green Book’s celebrated writer, Nick Vallelonga, supported Donald Trump’s infamous 9/11 lie that he remembers seeing Muslims celebrate on the rooftops of New York when they saw the Twin Towers in flames. This is a lie that he floated around to rally support from his racist base as well as to justify his Muslim Ban. Nick Vallelonga on Twitter supported Trump’s claims, saying that he too saw Muslims celebrating on New York rooftops.

After the Golden Globes and people discovering his questionable tweet, Nick Vallelonga has deleted his account. His PR representative, as of this moment, has said that since the account was deleted, there is not much to say about it. Why do people pretend that things on the Internet don’t stay on the Internet forever?

The film is about the unlikely friendship between a black jazz pianist, Don Shirley, and an Italian-American bouncer turned driver, Frank Vallelonga, Nick Vallelonga’s father. It’s the story of life during segregation and it has received acclaim, especially due to the performance of Mahershala Ali who portrayed Don Shirley. With Ali being a Muslim, I can only imagine how uncomfortable it must be for him to have worked on film with someone who is obviously prejudiced against Muslims. It’s already controversial with many of Shirley’s living relatives contested many details of the film, saying that the friendship between the two main characters is fictional and that scenes were created to play up black stereotypes. With the writer appearing to be a bigot, it would seem that the Shirley’s accusation that the makers of the film were more interested in making money than anything is growing to be more accurate.

This is not the first time I’ve seen someone change their politics or pander to the opposite site of the political spectrum in order to get a buck. Despite Nick Vallelonga presumably being a bigot or having some bigoted tendencies, that doesn’t stop him from seeing and crafting a good story that people would like to see. That doesn’t stop him from making art that people of opposite beliefs would appreciate. Knowing the background story however makes me not want to see the film, it is after all mostly a work of fiction. But it’s sad that all of this baggage is affecting performers who otherwise did well on the film.

Tomi Lahren, a conservative commentator pretending to speak for young people started out as a liberal. When that didn’t work for her, she became a conservative talked. With her bleach blonde looks and crazy talking points, conservatives were all too willing to give her the attention she wanted. Her African-American equivalent is Candace Owens. Same beginnings, started out as anti-Trump but is now a conservative talker. Follow the money. See what the audience likes, give it to them = profit. I think Louis CK is sorta trying to do the same thing, too. Before he was outed as a predator, his materials were raunchy and offensive, but tended to lean on the progressive side. But hearing his leaked materials, I see him courting the same men’s rights dude bros that he used to make fun of. He’s even making fun of students who were victims of school shootings despite having two kids of his own. It was the voice of a man aggrieved which is all too common with the alt-right types who claim that Gamergate was about games journalism. There is an audience for this, a very easy to entertain audience. Perhaps he’s just following the money. Maybe if he says “cuck” more often, I would be more convinced.

I don’t see how people do this though. I would never know how it feels because I never really earned a fortune through my art, but how does one make art or do work that is disingenuous to your true self? How does one spout of conservative nonsense when they are truly much smarter than that? How does Louis CK pander to a rather mean-spirited audience with his awful jokes? Or maybe that’s the real Louis CK all along. If so, how does one fake being a progressive when deep inside your soul is as black as Gavin Mcginnes’? How does one make a film shining the light on racial inequality and work with Muslim artists when deep down they would rather make a wall around the country to keep out all the dark minorities? Is it just the money? That must be an awful lot of money. That amount must be so big that you could hug it and at the same time feel its warmth surround you, giving you the most comfortable sleep at night. An amount of money that replicates the joy of making love, the comfort of being in a loving womb, and the taste of having sweet chocolate in your mouth (Am I describing cocaine?). What a wonderful amount that must be.

So yeah, maybe Nick Vallelonga is a bigot who doesn’t much care for the actual lives and values of the people who would most appreciate his story. I’m sure Green Book is a good movie, but other shows and movies have suddenly become more of a priority for me. I hear Bird Box is interesting.

 

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Reading the Christmas Barometer

Conversation

Christmas is my favorite holiday. I have become bitter, old, and cynical, but it is still my favorite holiday. It’s my favorite holiday when it’s good. Otherwise, it’s one of the most depressing days of the year. If it’s bad, it becomes a barometer of how messed up your life has been. What the hell have you been up to that you can’t even get a Christmas that is joyful?

The thing with Christmas is that it always brings me to a time when my family and I were still living together. My mother was still around, everyone got presents, and we even shared the evening with our cousins and extended family. There were tons of food and something Christmas-related was on the television to further amp up the mood. It was close as I could ever be to experiencing a Norman Rockwell painting. And yes, I do realize that nothing could ever replicate the holidays of my childhood, especially with rose-tinted glasses, but every year, I just want a decent meal and an evening that doesn’t end with me sleeping depressed.

Joyful is the last word I would use to describe Christmas this year.

There was one Christmas when my family, after having celebrated and opened all of our presents, was subjected to the sounds spousal abuse happening over at our neighbor’s house. It was pretty bad. To this day, I could still remember the sound of that poor woman being choked, as well as the knocking of her husband’s mother saying, “that’s enough… please stop it.” I don’t remember how the whole thing ended, but I do remember that no police officers were called to the scene.

There was another Christmas when I spent the holidays all by myself. I was in midst of the lowest depression. Nothing was working out in my life and I found myself wandering the city all by myself while people around me laughed, cackled, held hands with their loved ones, and made me all the more depressed. I remember one of the good things about that year was that it was actually snowing. It reminded me of being back home. See, when everything is bad, it’s the smallest things that count. What surprised me that year was that I got messages from two people I long discounted from my life. One from an old student and another from a friend whom I like to think I once helped out through her depression. It was good to be remembered. And at that time, I like to think I did something good to be remembered during the holidays. My life was messed up, but at least I did a bit of good for some people. I wonder what they’re up to now?

I’ve never been seriously bullied in my childhood, but I do remember being ostracized or being called names at one point or another. It was nothing serious, and I used to brush them off, but I do remember its sting and the cold lump it built on my throat, slowly making breathing a little bit harder. I’m sure everyone knows this feeling. I never thought about those feelings much before, but on Christmas, that’s the exact sensation that I felt. I’m a grown man, but I felt insecure, ugly, inept, unloved, not normal, and in a word “weird.” It was one of those few instances when I truly felt I didn’t belong… that something was truly wrong with me. That cold lump on my throat was making it harder for me to breath, and as I type these words, the sensation is still so fresh that I can still feel its sting. It’s like I am that neighbor lady being metaphorically choked.

I actually sometimes wonder if that actual benign lump in my thyroid is a manifestation of insecurities, Christian guilt, actual guilt, depression, and anxiety, and that it will someday grow and choke the life out of me.

Ugh… what am I writing? It’s December 26! It’s a low bar. I had a shitty Christmas. I hope everyone had a better Christmas than me.

 

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On Drawing and Joylessly Drawing

Monster

I started drawing at a very young age. Drawing was probably the only thing I was good at when I was young. I wasn’t particularly smart or athletic. I remember my father speculating that drawing is probably the reason why my handwriting was so poor. That was something I would keep on hearing many more years later. Growing up with three sister and not many boys my age around my neighborhood, I tended to entertain myself by playing G.I. Joes, video games, or drawing. I loved drawing. I would draw anything. I even remember copying illustrations from encyclopedias as practice. Later on, in elementary through high school, I got heavily interested in comic books. If you look at the back of my notebooks, they would all be filled with super hero illustrations. I thought I could be a comic book illustrator someday. Whenever the opportunity came, I participated in art contests. They were good experiences even when I didn’t win. They taught me at a young age how to work on specific themes and that art, at least art that pays, is often creating what others want you to make, and not what you want to do.

I didn’t attend art classes until I was grade nine. By that time, not to brag, I was already more skilled than the kids in my class. I was not sure if I learned any skills in high school art classes except for how to mat and frame works. The thing that I value most is learning about art history. My teacher tried to wean us from drawing cartoons and teach us about composition and learn about the masters in art history. It worked. I stopped trying to become a comic book illustrator and no longer drew heroes for my friends to hang on their walls. I was more interested in high art. I remember learning about Chiaroscuro and selling my first piece on canvas to one of my English teachers. It was a poor imitation to Chiaroscuro’s style depicting the piercing of Christ’s side. I think I sold it for $80 Canadian.

It was during high school when I first started developing my small drawing style. Oddly enough, my first piece done this way was made for an English project. I remember it was made mostly of lines and scenes from Hamlet, culminating in the death of Ophelia, the prince’s most innocent victim. I continued drawing with the same drawing style throughout university. There were times when I tried to move away from small drawings, venturing into sculpture and even making gigantic drawings, some measuring around 15 or 20 meters wide. But I kept coming back to the small drawings. I was encouraged mostly by my thesis professor, who despite me saying I was growing desperately bored of being hunched over drawing and writing small words, he told me that it was quite unique to hear of an artist being bored and yet unable to stop drawing. I have to continue making small drawings until my eyes fail me.

That was many years ago. I still haven’t stopped. Vision is still 20/20.

These days, I draw for the sake of drawing. I draw because I have to. I draw to whisper secrets onto the paper and in doing so momentarily free my mind from their burdens. I regret that I didn’t follow through on being a comic book illustrator. I regret that I didn’t explore how to become an illustrator for encyclopedias. Now and then, I regret missing out on learning how to tattoo and developing my own style of body art. I regret not working on being a commercial artist. But then again, maybe that would further discourage me from making art. Work sometimes takes the joy out of something you would do for free.

I don’t draw to make money. If some of my works sell, then it’s a blessing, but I don’t draw to sell my works. My images are not putting food on my table. I draw to show my works if the opportunity arises, but creating shows or making works to sell at shows are not my motivation. If it were, then maybe I’d be selling more works. I draw because I have to; it is a need. I do appreciate the little audience I have and am grateful to those who enjoy and have purchased my works. Even if people don’t buy them. Even if people just stop and stare for a second at a piece hanging on a wall. I am truly grateful for their time. I have no illusion that I will be a famous artist someday. That is why I appreciate the people who stop and enjoy my art when I know there are far better artists that they could (and should) be looking at.

So what is the point of all of this? The point is, drawing and making art doesn’t have to have a distinct purpose. You don’t need to make art to sell or to show people or to do whatever. You could just be making art just because you want to or need to. That is not particularly insightful and I know I’m not the first person to say that, but I think it is particularly true in my case. There are times when I am totally sick and bored of making art. I am left uninspired. But this need, this itch, this monkey on my back keeps me making more images. It pushes me to make something even when it is ugly as sin.

Sometimes people make art for no reason. They just enjoy it.

Sometimes people make art for no reason, even when they don’t enjoy it. They just have to.

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Time Flies Anonymously

Time Flies Anonymously

My grandmother passed away over a week ago. I was in Hawaii to pay my respects and to reunite with my family briefly. The occasion was a mixed.

My grandmother has been bedridden for so long now that it was a relief that she no longer has to suffer in the hospital. A couple of times before, we had scares and talks about letting my grandmother go peacefully and naturally. But in all honesty, after seeing pictures of her with so many tubes keeping her alive, however lucid she was, there was nothing natural about living like that. She was a wonderful, albeit complicated lady. Back in her day, I see her turning heads whenever she entered a room. Life is a blessing, youth is a blessing. I can only imagine the difficulty and pain living in such an unnatural state. In any case, it was good to honor her one last time. It was also good to finally thank my aunt for all the years she has devoted to my grandmother, always taking care of her throughout her most difficult years. My aunt is a saint.

My grandmother now joins my mother and my uncle. It is sad, but through recent years, I have seen a significant part of my family on my mother’s side just disappear from my life, including my own mother. It really hit me hard especially when I saw the picture above from one of my cousins. This was taken in early 2000s. There are eight people in the picture. One of them is me. Four people have already passed away. One person is a stranger to me. The two children in the picture have now grown and have three children between themselves. I don’t remember much from this moment, but I do recall that this was taken after a lunch gathering, and another person at the table not included in the picture is no longer with us as well. Every time I try to think of that moment, I can’t help but think of death no matter how happy the occasion was.

Time flies, folks. Tell your mother you love her while you still can.

I love you, Ma. I love you, Mommet.

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On Wonderful Canada and Much-Needed Marijuana Legalization

Triangle Man

Congratulations to Canada for being sensible enough to finally end senseless marijuana prohibition. Most people who have had experience smoking marijuana know that it is much less dangerous compared to drinking alcohol. I remember back in university, one of my first presentations in sociology class was about the how smoking marijuana and the US’ war on drugs have created this unjust more against marijuana despite the fact that alcohol, which is completely legal, can cause aggression and is involved in roughly half of all murders, rapes, and assaults. Compare that to marijuana. When was the last time you saw an aggressive person high on marijuana? It can cause a bit of paranoia, of course, but more often than not, its sedative effect is the most common experience.

I think most people who want access to marijuana in Canada already had access to it prior to legalization. It’s not that difficult finding marijuana in Canada. I remember back in university, marijuana tends to find you instead. The problem with marijuana is its legal consequences and how that affects people. Fortunately, Canada is planning to release and perhaps clear the records of felons caught with a certain amount of cannabis. However for some, it may be too late already.

People sometimes say that marijuana is a gateway drug. You start with marijuana and you move on to more potent illegal drugs. However, I saw how the prosecution of marijuana possession is the gateway to more serious crimes. One of my best friends in school tried selling and even growing marijuana when we were in high school. I remember he even asked me for advice for effective growing methods, but what do I know? Anyway, he was caught with possession or with possession with intent to sell and was sent to juvenile detention. I was already in university at the time and was spending time with a different circle of friends. I did hear from him and about him occasionally and learned that he later got involved with harder drugs, manufacturing methamphetamines, and even breaking and entering. The last time I saw him, he was out in a rough part of town, looking worse for the wear.

Even with marijuana being legalized, it would have still been illegal for him to be possessing drugs at such a young age, but both the stigma and the allure won’t be there since the drug would be legal. It would almost be akin to hiding a pack of cigarettes. But I believe his detention got him in the wrong path, not the drugs itself. He wasn’t poor back then or anything. He was raised in a middle-class household with both parents. It was simply the allure of drugs that got him in. Compare that to the rather mundane allure of legal cigarettes and alcohol to young teens.

And that’s just with teens. I know someone with a suspended sentence for possession of marijuana, not for recreational use but for her cancer-stricken husband’s medical use. With legalization, there would be less stigma and no more need for unintended grief for those who need the drug. It’s good to have a bit more sensibility in the current world where more and more things seem to stop making sense as the days go by.

Well, hopefully with legalization and taxation, there will be a growth in industry and government revenue across Canada. This will also hurt gangs and the illegal drug trade since one of their cash crops has now effectively become public domain. And with the wide availability and the proper monitoring by the government, hopefully people would not have any need to find and experiment with stronger drugs. If anything, I expect Canada to become more of an attraction to our southern neighbors. I remember occasionally finding young American crossing the border on their past their 18th birthday in order to legally drink alcohol, party in bars, visit strip clubs, and take advantage of the relatively low Canadian currency. If cities and the government play their cards right, we might just become North America’s Netherlands.

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