Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Thirty, Flirty, and Gone!

When I was thirty years old, America was at war in Iraq. “Insurgent” was a buzzword. American death counts approached 2,000. Bombs exploded in London. A devastating tsunami hit three continents.

Senator John Kerry ran a weak presidential campaign and lost to George W. Bush. The media labeled states red or blue. Gay marriage joined abortion rights on the front of a cultural war. Congress fought over a brain-damaged Florida woman named Terri Schiavo. The teaching of evolution in classrooms was questioned. Grieving mother Cindy Sheehan staged a public protest near Bush’s vacation house.

Sandra Day O'Connor announced her retirement from the Supreme Court of the United States. Drug-maker Merck took popular painkiller Vioxx off the market, and was subsequently found liable in the first trial. Another jury found Michael Jackson not guilty of all child molesting charges. Martha Stewart went to jail for insider trading. Google went public. Tom Cruise went crazy.

Sears hooked up with K-mart. Brad Pitt possibly hooked up with Angelina Jolie. Mariah Carey got her groove back. Lance Armstrong won his 7th and last Tour de France. The Philadelphia Eagles got to the Super Bowl. The Boston Red Sox won the World Series. I rooted for tennis star Lindsay Davenport and against pretty girl Maria Sharapova.

Live 8 concerts raised world poverty awareness. “Desperate Housewives” got big TV ratings. The last “Star Wars” movie came out. I didn’t join the iPod cult, but I downloaded digital tracks from Apple’s iTunes website. I sought comfort in old TV shows such as “Three’s Company” and the Vietnamese pop music and traditional musicals.

It was the year that I finally moved back to the city of Philadelphia. It was a full year of happiness with my partner Jacob. It was the year that we got rid of our cars and joined Philly Car Share. We rented DVDs through Netflix and watched TV programs recorded by TiVo.

I was part of the “Run Against Bush” movement. I ran with the Frontrunners/Philadelphia on my way to complete my first, second, and third marathon races. I played soccer with the Philadelphia Falcons and joined the 12th Street Gym. I staged my own ghetto triathlon.

When I was thirty years old, I found peace in the midst of a chaotic world.

When I was thirty years old, I had an amazing year.

Southern Decadence

Katrina is the Grinch who stole Southern Decadence from New Orleans this year! Here's hoping that Labor Day weekend will once again be full of decadence in the Big Easy.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

What if you threw a party and no one came?

"Fluff" could have been a great party. It was well-advertised. Great venue. Amazing light and sound. Fabulous drag performers.

But no one came. There were less than 50 people total by midnight, and by the time Eric, Danny, and I left at 1 am, half of the attendees were already gone, presumably to Woodys or Pure.

I may not be a party promoter, but I have a few explanations.

First, while the location was just half a block away from the gayborhood, a lot of gay guys couldfn't figure out where it was. Flyers referred to the venue as "The Factory" while the actual name of the venue was TPDS. I'm not sure why the actual name of the venue wasn't used, considering that the TPDS website indicated that August 27th was "gay night", I think the party promoter was allowed to use the venue name.

Second, the combination of no drink specials and $5 cover kept people away. Does no one know the concept of a loss leader? Give 'em dollar drinks and other early bird specials to create a happening party. Once midnight rolls around, charge $5 or $10 a drink and people will still pay. This is why Shampoo is still around while many other Philly clubs have gone under.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Marathon Training - 7 Weeks to Go

Started out strong this week. Had a mid-week collapse but recovered nicely on Saturday.

Week of August 22-28 (34 miles)

Monday (evening): approximately 13 miles. My building to Rittenhouse Square to 25th & Locust to King Drive, Falls Bridge, Kelly Drive, front of Art Museum, and back via "Locust Trail"

Tuesday (evening): approximately 6 miles. My building to Rittenhouse Square to 23rd & Locust to meet Danielle. Ran to Water Works. Walked to the last boat house and back to the Art Museum. Ran up the Rocky steps. Walked back to the trail. Ran to Washington Square and back home.

Friday: approximately 2 miles. To 4th St. and back via Spruce.

Satuday: approximately 13 miles. My building to Walnut bridge to King Drive, Falls Bridge, Kelly Drive, front of Art Museum, and back via "Locust Trail". Slow and steady.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Marathon Training - 8 Weeks to Go

Week of August 15 - 21 (21 miles)

I set out to run 37 miles this week, but my body revolted. I was sored after the Monday run. My body needed a break. Even a new pair of running shoes (Mizuno Wave Creation 6) couldn't tempt me back to my intended schedule.

Monday (evening): Approximately 10 miles. My building to 25th & Locust to 1/2 mile past Lloyd Hall (Kelly Drive) , around Rittenhouse Square, around Washington Square, Penn's Landing and back.

Thursday: Approximately 3 miles. To Penn's Locust Walk and back.

Saturday: Approximately 8 miles. To Lloyd Hall (Kelly Drive). Ran 5 miles with the Frontrunners. Walk/run back after brunch.


My elementary school principal ordered me to smile. My mother was afraid I was turning into a communist. I cheered for a French soccer player named Michel Platini and cried for the life of a woman named Luu.

The year was 1985. Ho Chi Minh City was still a sleepy city 10 years into the communist regime. City officials were getting ready for a 10-year anniversary of renaming of the city from Saigon. Various activities were being planned to show off the might of the country.

I was among many elementary school kids selected to be a part of the festivities. We had to dance and line up in several elaborate formations in a huge stadium during the opening ceremony. We practiced for several months. I was one of the shortest kids, so I was picked to be the lead-off person in all the dances and formations. Our rehearsal was filmed and critiqued. Apparently, I was so focus on not messing up I had a serious look the entire time. My elementary school principal ordered me to smile.

Under the communist regime, every kid was groomed to become a party member. Communist propaganda was well integrated into the school curriculum. The school uniform included a red scarf, a symbol of the communist party. We sang songs praising Ho Chi Minh and communism between classes. My mother, having grown up in the American-backed South Vietnam, never accepted communism. My mother was afraid I was turning into a communist, so she reminded me daily not to believe everything I was taught in school. She told tales of horrible things the communist government had done to our family, including killing her uncle during the Tet Offense of 1968 and taking away our home and farmland when the “liberated” the south in 1975.

Playing soccer was allowed by the government. The whole city was soccer crazy. My brother and I followed international soccer tournaments. We read newspapers, and occasionally caught a few games on our neighbor’s television set. French mid-fielder Michel Platini was our soccer idol. We also followed the Vietnamese national championships. We attended games at the Thong Nhat Stadium by either tagging along with our older relatives or sneaking in.

My brother and I played soccer barefoot with other neighborhood kids. By 1985, my brother was getting really good. He was selected to play for the school team. I realized I couldn’t compete with him, so I started branching out. I took art classes, and mandolin lessons.

I developed an interest for cai luong, a form of southern Vietnamese performance art. No one in my family cared for it. I first knew about it through my neighbors. I caught a few performances on TV. I was mesmerized. I loved the music and the drama.

Many stars of cai luong in the mid-80s joined forces for a revival of a musical called “Doi Co Luu”. The troupe traveled to a few countries to perform for Vietnamese expatriates. “Doi Co Luu,” or “Life of Miss Luu” told a sad tale of a Vietnamese peasant who suffered helplessly during the early 1900s. Her husband was wrongly imprisoned while she had to marry her evil landlord in order to save her unborn child. Fast-forward to 19 years later, the husband escaped prison to seek justice and hell broke loose.

Twenty years later, I'm not a communist. I still love “Doi Co Luu” and still to an audio performance of this musical via iTunes. I still play soccer and smile freely.

What were you doing in 1985?

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Alternate Photo Posted by Picasa

Friday, August 19, 2005

Be Bad with Mike LaMonaca

All photos here were taken by Mike LaMonaca within the past year, mostly at Steve McCann's Be Bad parties.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Gay Dentist

Could my new dentist and his staff be gayer? There were candles and Enya music in the waiting room. The administrative assistant and clerk were called "office manager" and "production executive". The dentist said he recognized me from seeing me out in the gayborhood. The office manager told me his body was getting soft so he needed to resume his gym workouts.

I just wanted to get my teeth cleaned by the hygienist, who held spotty hours. I had to take half a day off from work for this appointment. Everything was running late. I waited for about 45 minutes before I was seen. The hygienist left without cleaning my teeth. I had to make another appointment. Both the office manager and the production executive jumped up and down like they were doing a cheer after they found a time I could agree to come in. I was pissed.

Well, that was I got for finding a dentist in a gay newspaper.

Monday, August 15, 2005

A Midsummer Night's Dream

Who could have guessed that a good Shakespeare production could be staged in someone's backyard! Last Saturday, Eric and I were treated to a well-acted and entertaining play in a huge Main Line house courtesy of our sexy and talented friend Gary.

This was definitely a midsummer's night to remember!

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Gay Sex and Consequences

Michelangelo Signorile vs. Andrew Sullivan

I love a good catfight, especially that between two gay men from opposite sides of the rainbow. This round, the topic is HIV and AIDS. Hold on to your condom, it's gonna be a bumpy ride.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Marathon Training - 9 Weeks to Go

My feet took to different places this week as I continued my marathon training. It gives me a chance to explore the city on foot, and to brag about it.

Week of August 8 - 14 (35 miles)

Monday: Approximately 5 miles. Chinatown, Franklin Square (7th and Race), Penn's Landing, Society Hill, South Street, and Louis Kahn Park (11th and Pine).

Tuesday (evening): Approximately 7 miles. 52nd St. and back via Walnut St. My fastest 7-mile run ever? West Philly at night terrified me so I ran like I was being chased. I kept up the momentum as I returned to C.C. and finished the run in exactly one hour.

Thursday: Approximately 17 miles. To Bias in Manayunk and back via Kelly Drive. This was not a good run as I struggled to maintain a decent speed.

Saturday: Approximately 6 miles. To Camden, New Jersey via the Ben Franklin Bridge pedestrian path, turning around at my favorite building in Camden (the court house at 520 Market St). I had the most amazing view of the Philadelphia on my way back.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Public Transit

Three hous a day. Five days a week. That's how much time I spend commuting to and from work. The train ride itself is 45 minutes each way, the shuttle ride is less than 10 minutes. Walking and waiting time adds up.

Does this count as extreme commuting?

I actually don't mind. This is a trade-off for choosing to live in Center City and working in the surburbs. Each day I still get equally excited about going to work, where I "juggle babies and knives"*, and coming back to the city that I love.

I use my idle time to get caught up on my reading, relaxing, or even napping. I already missed my stop once because I passed out on the train on a Friday afternoon. My other public transit mishap included hot August morning when my shuttle bus didn't show, so I walked 30 minutes to my office on a road without sidewalks. I was soaking wet when I got to my office.

Still, this beats living in the suburbs or driving to work. SEPTA: I'm your man!

Monday, August 08, 2005

In the Know

Locust St. Posted by Picasa

know hiv/aids is a non-profit arm of corporate giant Viacom, parent of MTV. This group has taken over the Philly gayborhood the past week, painting the street, filming a TV commercial, and annoying the shit out of Jacob.

St. James St. in front of Pure

Posted by Picasa

12th Street

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Sunday, August 07, 2005

1.5 Generation Asian American

I can't speak English like a native. I can't speak Vietnamese too well either. By immigrating to America as a minor, I find myself embracing both cultures, but at the same time being casted as an outsider in both of my worlds.

Thus is a typical life of a 1.5 generation Asian American.

One of the most difficult things about being a 1.5 generation American is my relationship with my parents. Besides the generation gap, I differ from my parents culturally and politically. My parents, despite their naturalized American citizenships, are still Asians living in America. They prefer to speak Vietnamese, to view Vietnamese entertainment programs, and to socialize with other Vietnamese families. I took a completely different approach. I was eager to integrate myself into the American society. I didn't have Vietnamese friends by the time I was a college freshman, I started losing my Vietnamese language.

The main source of entertainment for my parents are Vietnamese music videos which they either purchase or receive pirate copies from their friends. A typical weekend trip to see my parents involving eating Mom's food and watching Vietnamese music videos on DVDs. My parents hardly ever watch American movies or eat American food. Their conversations center around what's going on with our relatives in Vietnam, which I care, and how Vietnam was 30 years ago, which I've heard 500 times in increasingly embelished versions.

I am proud of my parents for achieving their American dream. They came here with nothing. They've worked their asses off to pay off their mortgage. Their house is in a quiet and safe neighborhood surrounded by nice trees and green grass. They drive nice cars. They helped to pay for my brother and my college education. They have two beautiful grandchildren. They send money to our relatives in Vietnam. They have a nice retirement fund.

I appreciate everything that my parents provided me so I can be where I am today. My parents taught me to be a kind person and a responsible citizen. My parents taught me the value of having a good education, and the importance of saving for the future.

A lot of lessons my parents taught me are still in me. However, my American dream is vastly different from theirs. I'm not sure if my parents understand that I don't want a house in the country. I don't want to go to bed at 8 p.m. everyday. I don't want to spend all my vacation time and money going to one place every year.

My parents and I often disagree, but I love them. We'd get along so much better if they stop imposing their values on me and probably vice versa. It's something I strive for. I know my parents try to find a common ground too. It's easier said than done. That's the story of a 1.5 generation Asian American and his parents.

The Rice Kind of Love

Jacob found it amusing to carry a 20-lb bag of rice from Chinatown back to our apartment. We even made stop at a RadioShack in the Gallery. 'Rice' means 'Asian' a derogatory sense but is used in the queer world as a term of endearment. People make money from selling T-shirts screaming "Got Rice?" It's a ridiculous and overused wordplay that Jacob and I can't seem to get enough.

During a run last weekend, I amused myself by connecting 'rice' with pop music lyrics, which is already ridiculous in its own rice, or right. I decided to substitute the word "right" with "rice" and see if it stuck.

Whitney Houston
It’s Not Rice But It’s OK

Cole Porter via Frank Sinatra
That, if some night, you are free
Then it's all rice, yes, it's all rice with me

Hold me tight (Hold you tight)
I'll do it rice, if ya, bring me rice

You thought you had me fooled but I see rice through you!

New Kids On the Block
All that I needed was you
Oh girl, you're so rice

Nina Simon
If you pray rice, heaven belongs to you
If you love rice, heaven belongs to you

Guns N Roses
Give it all and ask for no return
And very soon you'll see and you'll begin to learn
that it's all rice, yes it's all rice

Jeremy Jordan
Girl I know I can give you
The rice kind of love
It's the rice kind of night
You're the rice kind of girl

Yes, I'm silly. Yes, I listen to silly music. Get over it.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Marathon Training - 10 Weeks to Go

Yeah, baby!! I ran 33 miles this week vs. my plan of 25 miles. Wanted to test my body a little bit, especially on the Friday and Saturday runs. Several new blisters popped up on top of old ones. They're screaming "Buy new shoes! Buy new shoes!".

Week of August 1-7 (33 miles)

Monday: Approximately 3 miles. My building to Penn's Landing by the RiverLink ferry dock and back.

Tuesday: Approximately 5 miles. My building to 25th & Locust to Art Museum and back.

Wednesday (evening): Approximately 6 miles. My building to 25th & Locust to Lloyd Hall (Kelly Drive) , around Washington Square and back.

Friday: approximately 14 miles. My building to Rittenhouse Square to 25th & Locust to King Drive, Falls Bridge, Kelly Drive, front of Art Museum, and back via "Locust Trail"

Saturday: 5 miles with the Philadelphia Front Runners. Lloyd Hall to the 2.5 mile marker on Kelly Drive and back.

Friday, August 05, 2005

'Cicadas and Mariah Carey'

"We Belong Together" has become the most unavoidable song of the summer. It was the number one pop song during the Memorial Day weekend. It's still on top of the Billboard's Hot 100 chart. The New York Times pointed out that Mariah has bucked a recent trend of hip-hop songs built for the clubs dominating the summer airwaves.

"We Belong Together" is a simple, sad ballad with a hip-hop twist. Instead of featuring guest rappers, Mariah herself spits out rapid burst of words in just a few notes. I myself like the song, but don't love it. I prefer a straight-up ballad as "Never Too Far" is still Mariah's most played song on my iTunes.

So Mariah's back, and I'm glad. I'm also waiting for another diva meltdown.