How do you spend the day

Is how you going to spend your life.

This quote often sends chills down to my spine especially when I’ve not been productive, or when I’ve squandered the day not accompolishing something meaningful.

When I was on the phone with a dear friend in LA the other day, friend asked whether I had gone to movies, dined with friends, had fun and what not apart from working.

I suddenly grew sheepish, because I hadn’t watched a single movie in the theatre lately. I blamed the lame movies that got imported. I hadn’t met many friends either except the ones I really wanted to meet because the deadlines had been hovering above my head since I got well from pneumonia.

It was as if everything I do, or plan to do, I had to give it some kind of meaning. Otherwise, it was not worthy of my time. It even haunted me in my dreams.

When dad asked me to help him to fix a phone app, I spent almost half an hour on it due to the app’s stupid user interface. Dad later apologized for wasting my time, for interrupting my writing. At the time, I did complain a little, explaining that it takes a person 30 mins to actually get into the groove to do anything creative.

Later, Dad, the busiest and earliest bee of the family, said without any context, “you know, a day passes by so fast. I don’t even know what I’ve done and then day has turned into night.” At the time, I was winding down watching Frasier. I looked up from my laptop and said, “Yes. I feel the same way.” Suddenly it struck a chord and made me meloncholy.

As of now, I am close with my loving parents, my needy cat who has to nap on my lap. Sometimes I admit I feel a bit overwhelmed. But soon, maybe a year or so, I will pack up my things up and leave again. This time, I will bid farewell and try to make my own home in LA, again.

You see, before we know it, our parents will be older. So are we. We dash through days, months, years, brushing shoulders with people zipping in and out of our lives.

By now, I don’t have a single junior or senior high school friend that I’m still in touch with. By uprooting my career some four years ago, I’ve made myself obselete in most of my old Chinese acqauintances’ memory drive while trying to squeeze into my American friends’ life, who may already have one friend too many… Such is a pickle of hard fact that I must chew and digest.

I only hope that when I take my last breath in this lifetime, I can say that I have had a brave life. I’ve done whatever I can to become the best version of myself with whatever resources that are available to me. I’m a good daughter, a sincere friend, a fun companion. And most important, I stay true to my heart.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

Whose shit is this shit?

Dad saw a husky owner who didn’t pick up the dog shit. He called after the guy before he was led away by his dog.

“Sir, forgetting something here?” Dad pointed at the hot mess. Nerves on his temple bulging.

“You lost your marbles? Mind your own fucking business.” The man barked back and refused flatly.

Dad asked the Residential Committee to even things out. Its office is right beside where the shit show happened, fortunately.  And yet, not a single soul came out.

A staffer hiding behind her desk replied sheepishly, “[Dog poop] is NOT our job.” 

The man snickered at my dad, “See? It’s not their job. So what’s the fuss here? You’re a CPC member or what?” [Translation: CPC Member = Boy Scout with a twist.]

It was not until my dad threatened to call the police that the man dared to taint “the good name of CPC” that the man finally gave in and picked up the shit and apologized.

Dad told the story during dinner and added, “That’s why I warn you not to mind these monkey business. It does you no good.”

“But now we have one less shit to worry about, eh?  So who’s job is it when it comes to… dog shit?”

Dad didn’t have an answer. I don’t either. 

Truth is, you can’t expect every dog owner to remember pick their puppies’ shit up. Maybe another law will suffice?

Or maybe more folks like dad who is getting discouraged when he did the right thing.  Sometimes, if you meet people whose last layer of dignity is gone, there is nothing left for you to do. 

Did I mention that every person working in the Residential Committee is a party member? Yep, here comes the twist. Go figure.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

 

My jogging buddy

When I lived in LA, I went to Trader Joe’s by myself. I went to the gym by myself. I sometimes went to the movies by myself. I ate mostly by myself.

As I did my daily 5,000-step laps with dad this evening, I realized that he has become my jogging buddy. 

When the rain had became drizzles, we strolled the quiet end of the neighborhood. Our conversation varied from what I’d watched to what I’d written. He listened and sometimes gave me his observations. 

And before I knew it, he’d announced: that’s the fifth lap now. 

Okay. I’d say.

And we slowed down a little as we sauntered back, carefully avoiding the occasional dog poops of the dog owners who have enough money to own labradors but not enough ethics to clean up their dogs’ residues.

The only downside for me is, now I need to find some other chunks of time to listen to podcasts and audiobooks. Because my dad would be the first one to ditch me, also known as the lesser consistent of the two.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

 

Sleepless in Shanghai

My LA friend landed in Shanghai two nights ago for a 48-hour visit.

No matter how tight the schedule, we had to go to the Bund, which is must-must-see for any tourist. Along with my friend, I was also blown away by the views.

Three years away from Shanghai is like three decades everywhere else. I still remember the dirty and disorganized Bund when I went there as a child. Fast forward two decades later, I couldn’t find one litter on the ground. New state-of-the-art traffic signals installed for pedestrians to cross the streets. New skyscrapers sprouted out on the Pudong side (aka. Pu Jersey) across the Huangpu River (Think Hudson you’re from the States; or Thames if you’re from Britain). The Pudong Shangri-La building used to be part of the Shanghai skyline.  Now it looks like a spoiled chocolate granola bar that need to be thrown away.

We ended the night at Mr. & Mrs. Bund, a buzzy French restaurant. The food and the price match the standards of the best of Beverly Hills and Fifth Ave.  Since after the anti-corruption campaign, Chinese don’t frequent pricy places like this anymore.  As I roughly surveyed, 80% of the diners were non-Chinese.

By the time my cab arrived, clusters of night owls smoking, vaping, snorting the city’s night vibes, musing on their next stop, some hippiest nightclub that is beyond me, that is out of my league.

When I woke up this morning, my body smirked at me, “You ain’t party animal material.”

 

Yours truly,
YZ

 

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Shanghai skyline
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The Bund

Daylight Saving

As of today, America move its clocks back an hour.  That makes LA 16 hours behind Shanghai.

You see, we don’t do that in China. We don’t even have multiple time zones. Beijing time for all. But I recalled we did try changing time when I was in pre-school. But to no avail.

When I lived in LA, regardless of my inexperience with changing time, I didn’t need to do it physically.  My smartass phone keeps me on time automatically.

Gaining an extra hour can be exciting. I usually would try to go to bed “an hour early” so I can start becoming an early bird finally.

However, shrouded in darkness as early as five p.m. put me right into depression.  So much so that when I was packing to leave LA, I tried to convince myself that not having to deal with “daylight saving depression” was something that I could look forward to when I got back in Shanghai.

By now, I can say this much with confidence: escaping from dusk depression just isn’t good enough.  My heart throbs at the palm trees in movies; my ears perk up at the mention of LA.  Even my parents and my cat aren’t heavy enough to anchor me here.

I need to go back. I want to go back. I have to go back. Five pm pitch black or not. We always have March to get it right.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

PS. I’m happy to report that I’m close to finish the second draft of the short film that I’m working on with a student director. The pay is, of course, chicken-shit.  But I will collect another credit for my artist visa as the student completes the short in the coming spring. Beat it, I know it’s not winter yet. But let me fast-forward just a little… so I can make some sense out of the bone-chilling Shanghai winter… which I’ve long forgotten when I did time in LA.

Time travel

It’s almost a week since I’m back in Shanghai.

For one, I feel like someone who was abducetd by the aliens for experiments to their advantage.

To my own disadvantage, I got disconnected from the world for three whole years.

Now three years later, I finally paid my dues and got sent back to the Earth.

To everybody else, it is as if the time hasn’t passed, as if nobody knows that I’d been gone for this long.

Better yet, I’m supposed to fit in again.

But constantly I’m in awe of the changes here in Shanghai, a city that is evolving at the neck-breaking speed.

I thought only in Beverly Hill you bump into women who beg to get their features altered. But now Shanghai has caught up just fine. Young women donning photoshopped faces, they’re so proud, so blatant, so unapologetic.

I’m mesmerized by the expansive transportation system. Do you know that now we have this bus called 71 which runs on electricity and has its own bus lane? Pretty darn cool, isn’t it?

I feel like I’m still locked in space, watching this city, this place where I once called home, twisting and turning. And only those who can keep up with it get to stay.

Then it dawned on me, three years ago, it was not the alien who abducted me after all. It was I who decided to board the alien mothership… and told Shanghai it can go fuck itself.

I guess it’s still holding grudges.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

The hardest goodbye

“Have you told your parents that you were sad to leave here?”

As I sobbed, my friend probed.

“No.”

“Why not?”

I didn’t give an answer. But I had one: How can you be sad when you are going to reunite with your family and friends back in your hometown after three years without one single visit?!

I felt only if I left on my own terms, I would feel better.

But the more I’ve lived, the less things are done utterly on my terms.

“Just accept it.” My friend kept on going.

To be utterly frank, right now I don’t feel an ounce of joy going back.

Home is always here. But my dream? How long would that last when the bubble bursts and now I’m stark naked in front of my parents’ porch asking them to let me in.

Don’t get me wrong, my parents are overjoyed to have me back. So am I to see them as often as I want.

When I’m back home, I know I would be safe. I would sleep well and eat fine. I can have not a worry should I choose to…

But right now, this suffocating feeling is crushing down on my chest. I’m dying the speed of the reality.

It’s past one. And I’m still wide awake.

It’s Saturday the 13th. By 14th noon, I’ll be forced to delete the last line of code I’ve written here in L.A. by catching the flight before Homeland Security catches me. Would anyone remember me, my existance, two months from now, two years from now?

Shanghai has written me off its menu. Now would it let me back in?

 

I’ve been single-looping Lady GaGa’s Always Remember Us This Way from her latest movie A Star Was Born; a film I went two days ago, at the end of which I sobbed till I throbbed.

It’s buried in my soul
Like California gold
You found the light in me that I couldn’t find

You look at me and babe I wanna catch on fire
So when I’m all choked up and I can’t find the words
Every time we say goodbye baby it hurts

When the sun goes down
And the band won’t play
I’ll always remember us this way

The hardest goodbye
Thus far
But I’m not even home yet
And yet
Why am I mourning
Why am I crying

It hurts like a bitch.

 

Yours truly,
YZ