Next time

I’d be honored to work with you again some day.

I can’t remember the last time I snapped any photo of LA.

Maybe I had grown complacent…

Maybe I had gotten used to the expat experience…

Truth is, I just wanted to fit in, so desperately, that I never called myself one.

Now deadlocked with my inescapable fate, I had to reacquaint myself with this term I so vehemently rejected…

We had a beautiful dusk here yesterday. I snapped a photo with my eyes and stored it my memory drive.

I was strolling with my dear friend, who helped me move when I first got here, whom would be the first featured guest on my podcast, premiering next Tuesday, August 28.

 

I would be angry.

Was the first thing he said when he came up to my studio apartment.

“Why?”

“That you can’t stay here when you clearly wanted to.”

“Trust me, I was pretty frustrated last year. I couldn’t write.”

We talked about anything and everything. I asked him to record an answer for me, which has become the #RBYZ Trademarked question.

Then we talked some more as we walked the neighborhood.

He didn’t need to probe or ask how I was holding up.

I’ve become quite an expert in opening up. I’m rockin’ this podcast about those would-be shameful hours, and blogging makes me shame-free, almost.

“I remember thinking about taking a pill or something so I didn’t have to deal with the mess the next day. I’m just so freaking exhausted.”

He simply listened.

And that’s all I need.

I thought I was a warrior, but it dawned on me that I was picking the wrong battles for the last three years straight:

  • Moving four times within the first months I landed in LAX;
  • Filing a lawsuit against my former landlady, the quintessence of a cunt;
  • Vexed by my former ungrateful roommates who did nothing to contribute other than to complain. When I got our money back, I couldn’t recall a proper ‘thank you’ from the spoiled little brats;
  • Begging for just a five-minute meeting with my billionaire former boss when I didn’t get the work visa lottery…
  • If I knew my ex-boss would let me go a month later, I might not have paid 2.5 G to renew my student status awaiting him to grace me with his presence while not getting not a dime since June 1 because of my visa*;
  • *Thanks to the US immigration laws, foreign students aren’t allowed to work or get paid on paper. They can’t even land free internships…
  • By the way, do you know just how hard it is to get an artist visa as a writer fresh off film school?
  • But even if I did get to stay, what about dinero? How else would I survive the California Dreamin’?

God forbid I’m not a Crazy Rich Asian.

So when my current landlord decided to oust me for his little scheme last Thursday, I was bone-tired. I didn’t have an ounce of energy left. I was depleted.

My lawyer friend looked at the contract and got me a 60-day notice instead of the landlord’s original 30-days.

But I’d already decided to return to China, thanks to the wise words of my psychologist friend, Barbara Kiao.  And without the lovely Angels I’ve befriended in LA, maybe I might have ended up in the Cuckoo’s Nest already…

 

As I finished editing the pilot episode late last night, I texted my friend, thanking for dropping by.  At the time, he was at his friend’s birthday party.  Surprisingly, he texted back:

Don’t forget: you’re a funny, kind, and beautiful person. You have tons of adventures ahead of you and I’d be honored to work with you again some day.

The warmth coursed through my artery and pumped into my heart, my weary wrinkled heart.

“Not someday. Soon. I wish you said it in my face though.” I reprimanded.

He promised he would next time.

Until next time then.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

Be everything

One episode at a time. And no more.

In times like this, you can’t just be a writer.
You can’t just be a producer.
You can’t just be a cinematographer.
You can’t just be a director.
You have to be everything.
You need to be a writer-director-producer-promoter ninja to get any projects made.

In a word, you have to be a genius, Superman, Wonder Woman.

 

Here is how it works: you start with a short and hope that short would lead you somewhere.

And after you have self-delivered your baby, you wish you have an audience to cheer you on. Of course, you go to your friends and beg them to rate your babies, ugly or not, on Amazon etc. with five-star ratings.

I told myself that I couldn’t be bothered because I made my babies out of passion, out of love. Just how many people would chime in, I don’t care. It’s pathetic. I wouldn’t allow it.

But still, I asked friends to please rate my podcast on iTunes when I launched it. Last time I checked, there are six ratings, two reviews out of some dozens messages I sent out.

Fuck, I’m a hypocrite.

Because I should just focus on my next Tuesday’s shipping deadline like I’ve promised myself:

One episode at a time. And no more.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

Social nicety

Here I am
In my empress’s new clothes
Sans social nicety
Nursing a shot of reality
So cheers. 

I thought you planned to stay in the US.

An acquaintance in France texted back in WeChat (the Chinese Snapchat but much more; owned by Tencent).

Yeah, I thought so, too.  But it isn’t like I were married to some French dude which allows me to split time between Paris and Shanghai.  Life would be simpler if some American dude popped the question whom I wanted to say yes to.  Last time I checked, I had zilch proposals in my archives.  Or maybe I should check my hearing, or vision?

I didn’t get the work visa lottery this time. But I’ll apply for the artist visa next year, hopefully.

I finally conjured up this beige answer.

I guess I would bump into a lot of questions like this when I’m back home. MIA for three years. Of course my Chinese ‘friends’ would assume I would’ve become an American.

So now you want to come back?

I can see their thought bubbles bloating.

Sick of being a stranger in a strange land, I want to re-surround myself with familiarity back home, only to be estranged by those whom I used to call friends, and now I have to suss them out before I board those friendships which might’ve wrecked with the RMS Titanic in 1912.

Oh, by the way, the woman had removed me from her WeChat. I only found out when I reached out to her…

Why would she delete me? I don’t even post stuff anymore on Moments.

And why would I send her an invite again? Well, I kind of want to dare her.

I don’t use WeChat that much.

She explained when she added me back.

I wanted to call her bullshit.

But truth is, I felt hurt. Yeah, by this acquaintance whom I haven’t seen for three years.

Truth is, I thought she was a friend. She must know what it feels like to be away from home, to try to make a new home base abroad.

Oh wait, her Parisian husband had it all taken care of. And having two kids in an EU country? She must get lots of benefits.

See what I’m doing? I’m judging her without trying to get to know her.

Just why on earth would I ask to interview her for my podcast? She wouldn’t even check out the 60s trailer I sent over.

Oh, you have a podcast now? I will spend time later and savor (细细品味) it.

Later means never.
So savor my ass, bitch.

But wait, why would I be so defensive? It’s me who wants something from her after all.

Here and there, I struggle to acquaint with people whom I find interesting because we’re cushioned by these social niceties.  Can’t we just be real for once?

Hence, I launched my podcast, started this blog.

What I say may sound harsh, or politically incorrect even.

But here I am
In my empress’s new clothes
Sans social nicety
Nursing a shot of reality
So, cheers.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

It is what it is

Be open, wide open. Be clear, crystal clear. It is what it is.  Nothing more. 

A journey of a thousand miles… Begins with a single step.

Says Lao Tzu.

  • Who would have thought I would start podcasting myself when I couldn’t bear the sound of my own voice for the longest time?
  • Who would have thought I would start interviewing folks in different sizes, colors and genders about their most vulnerable moments, their Rock Bottoms, which they might not have shared with their loved ones, or even with themselves?
  • Who would have thought I would start baring my souls here and call myself a Blogger Anonymous? Who the fuck is ‘YZ?’  I still have trouble answering to my new id when I connect with my lovely guests on Skype.
  • I don’t know yet where my future holds, here or back home. But I love connecting with people again through this little project I created from scratch.
  • I know I’m more more than just a writer. I’m meant for something grander.
  • Maybe I’ll share my story on TED some day. Surely a lovely goal to keep!

 

As I launched #RBYZ podcast on iTunes and shared it amongst family and friends. A friend called me up and said she was blown away by the sheer awesomeness of my podcast trailer, from the cover art to the delivery…

This woman is someone whom I feel a gap in between us. She is the third-generation of an established Hollywood family. Her long list of credits in movies and TV shows. Her fierce work ethic. Her level-headedness.  And she is only four months older than I am!

“Let’s grab coffee next week!” Her enthusiasm oozed out of my iPhone speaker.

“Yes. Let’s!”

“Have you shared it with XXX?”

She meant my former boss, also her former boss.  She left the job last April.

The company threw her a surprise farewell party. Hugs were exchanged. Tears were shed. Selfies were snapped. Pro photos were posed.

“I was let go two Fridays ago.”

No party cake or balloons. Only hush hush and WTFs.

“No way.”

“It is what it is. I’m leaving for China in mid-Oct.”

“You are?!”

“Yeah. I need to recenter myself. I called my psychologist friend two days after I got sacked. She gave me total mental clarity in just two minutes…”

Yep, my psychologist friend Barbara Kiao is also featured on my podcast, coming soon!

“I know it must be painful. But I’m so glad you’re getting something extraordinary out of this Rock Bottom! You know what, we should see each other more since you’re leaving in mid-Oct!”

“Yes!”

 

Two things I discovered after I hung up, thrilled.

  • Between the woman and myself, we’re finally closer in this new friendship, which wasn’t possible when we were both employed there.
  • How easy it was to talk about the would-be should-be disgrace when I choose not to give power to that experience.

 

Be open, wide open.

Be clear, crystal clear.

It is what it is.  Nothing more.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

RBYZ: Trailer (#000)

You ready? Let’s rock from the bottom!

Introducing Rock Bottom with YZ, a new podcast for and about anyone and everyone who has spiraled downward and doesn’t know which end is up.

Premiers August 28.

You ready?
Let’s rock from the bottom!

 

Listen and subscribe via:

Listen to Rock Bottom with YZ on RadioPublic

Yours truly,
YZ

PS. Click here to see ways to help #RBYZ to grow.

 

Welcome to Wall Street

Your country won’t spare me. So why shall I spare you?

Friend and I were on our way to a famous ice-cream joint called Fosselman’s in Alhambra.

It was still rush hour. Friend decided to cross downtown instead of taking the I-10 highway.

Lo and behold, he got us to the armpit of LA.

Congested rows of tents, makeshift camps with umbrellas as rooftops.
Pretty creative.

Men and women, meandered the street.
They were here. But they weren’t really here.
They weren’t depressed, depleted, or deprived….
But numbness, written all over their faces, mostly African-Americans.

I didn’t need to roll down the window of the BMW to smell the air they were breathing in.
My hand grabbing the leather door handle.
My back tight against the car seat.

I glanced over at my immaculate African-American friend behind the wheel.
My eyes screaming, “Get me outta here.”

“For a country as wealthy as ours, I still can’t figure how we have allowed this to happen. It’s a disgrace. Sorry”

Friend hit the gas.

Before we sped off, I caught sight of the street sign.

It reads: Wall St.

 

Saturday afternoon is my Grocery Day.  I walk to Trader Joe’s in Westwood. I would pass this kind-faced woman with a tender voice, “Could you spare any change?”

Only a recent LA dweller in Fall 2015, I would stop and apologize because I only carried credit card.

Later I exchanged notes to quarters for laundry. But I found myself ignoring her with my bagful of changes… Or any homeless people I passed by.

I couldn’t spare any. Because I had nothing to spare. I was just a student, I reasoned.

But that’s a lie.

Here is the voice in my head barking back—

They’re fortunate enough to be born into this free country but they still let themselves descend to begging?

Your country won’t spare me. So why shall I spare you?

 

Yours truly,
YZ

Second chance

Now I’m leaving. Soon.  Hope I’ll be back soon again. I promise I’ll treat you better.

It may sound crazy, but I didn’t start to appreciate the good weather in Los Angeles until most recently when I’ve decided to part ways with the City of Angels.

To me, everything here was either too much or too little.

The sun was too much.
The rain was too little.

And yet, two years in a roll, we’ve had some fierce LA winter rains.

That day, I had to submit the printed script on campus. I made a trip to Staples. Then mounted my bike as usual to UCLA.

It was drizzling.
Drizzle in LA? Gimme a break.

Five minutes in, the rain started pouring buckets right above my head, pelting against my face.

Of course I didn’t give in. I was dashing against a deadline and I didn’t want to go home now when I’ve gone this far. So paddled as I did. I shall outlast it.

Yep. Two hours later, the rain stopped.

Looking around, I was not the only sorry ass on campus who was wet. But I was pretty sure I was on top of the Drenched List. Everything about me was soggy.

Then, the journey back home.
The wind…
Down the hill…
On a bike…

I empathized with Jack Dawson.
My teeth clattered.
My body trembled.
My will withered.
But I got home, alive.

 

I didn’t appreciate a lot of things in LA. Certainly not this rain even though I heard LA had been suffering from the worst drought in years. The rain came in time.

And don’t get me started on the Sun.  The Sun was always mocking me when it was not raining.  I couldn’t see past my personal mishaps. It was always about me, me, me, me, me.

Now I’m leaving. Soon.  Hope I’ll be back soon again.

I promise I’ll treat you better.

 

Yours truly,
YZ