Happy New Year!

Happy 2019!

And she’s back.

Yes!

I still have a few pressing writing deadlines at my hand. But I’ve decided to log back onto the blog I’ve been turning to since around my major Rock Bottom last summer.

2019 may very well foresee my film career officially taking off. My first feature movie will premiere at the end of 2019 amongst other things. It all sounds surreal, but getting back to LA won’t be for too long after all.

For 2019, a few things will be my priority:

  1. Fear less. Worry less. We shall see how my Mrs. Bennet-esque poor nerves would serve me in 2019.
  2. Just do it. I think, strike that, I know I can. (My guilt pleasure is still to binge-watch Frasier whenever life or circumstances spit on me. I’m currently on Season 3 Episode 22…)
  3. Spend quality time with my parents. (I will take my folks to Japan for a week in the fall if I finish everythething I should finish by April*.)
  4. Be a friend indeed to my friends in need. (Say yes if I can help it.)
  5. Get up early. Exercise daily. Eat healthy. (Well, I just ordered a large pack of MyLikes, aka. Chinese Maltesers…)

After the months crawl out of the shitty place, all I can say is this:

The power lies right within us if we dare to summon it, tirelessly, lovingly. 

Or as Sir Winston Churchill eloquently put it:

Never, never, never give up.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

PS. Here is my first four months to-do list:

  • Animation feature script – done
  • Feature script polish – done
  • Paper – first draft
  • New feature script on spec – first draft
  • New short script – first draft
  • The class plans for the spring semester (I’m teaching two screenwriting classes at a Shanghai college)

The show must go on

9 days ago, I landed in Shanghai.

7 days ago, I recorded this episode with Barbara Kiao.

6 days ago, I reemerged on the worldwide web.

4 days ago, I fell sick and couldn’t make a sound…

15 seconds ago, I was still coughing my eyes out.

It feels like The Shawshank Redemption sequel…

But the show must go on!

Thank you for sticking around!

And here it is!

 

Yours truly,
YZ

PS. I’ll post the show notes here tomorrow.

RBYZ: Straight Outta Deep South (#002)

Born to a working-class African American family of five children in the segregated South, got drafted to Vietnam leaving his newlywed wife behind and handing in his fate to the unknown…

My guest today is Mr. Jess Womack, former Los Angeles Unified School District’s inspector general, who defied Rock Bottom and rose to the top.

What you’ll hear:

  • What was it like to be born in the ’40s Alabama?
  • How did he deal with race in the segregated South as a kid?
  • How books changed his life.
  • What did he learn from his White teachers when the family moved to the North?
  • What impact did Martin Luther King’s I Have A Dream speech have on him?
  • What did his two-year Peace Corps sojourn in Kenya teach him?
  • How did he keep having faith as he got drafted to Vietnam?
  • How did he deal with self-doubt as a young lawyer?

Links from the episode:

To the rest of us, Jess seemed to start from the Rock Bottom:
Born to a working-class African American family of five children in the segregated South, got drafted to Vietnam leaving his newlywed wife behind and handing in his fate to the unknown…

And yet, decades later, he is a revered lawyer who not only served his country, but also served as the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Inspector General, twice, building hundreds of schools for kids, lots of whom first-generation immigrants.

Jess Womack
Jess in Vietnam, 1970

Note from Jess:

This photograph was taken somewhere on a muddy hill in Vietnam where we stayed for about 3-4 weeks, which was a typical deployment. The contact we experienced there was atypical and costly. We were glad to leave. As I was rounding up the last of our guys, one said, “Hey Sergeant Womack, turn around!” It was that moment he caught. 

The caption — Perspective!  Years later at a very dark and difficult time in my career and life, I happened to find the photograph. I blew it up and put the caption on it to always remind myself what real hardship was.

Give it up to Mr. Jess Womack, my dear friend and mentor.

And one more thing: Happy Birthday, Jess!

 

Listen and subscribe to Rock Bottom with YZ:
A weekly podcast for and about anyone and everyone who has spiraled downward and doesn’t know which end is up.

Listen to Rock Bottom with YZ on RadioPublic

 

Yours truly,
YZ

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

Next time

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