Two months later

My folks are on a trip for three days.

It’s just me and my cat Michael in the apartment.

Where I had spent three years all myself in the US, now three days seems too long. I need to heat up the food three times a day for three days. I need to feed and clean the cat. I need to get things in place for the room-bot. I need to do my own laundry. I need to remind myself to drink water…

All these things that I had been doing for myself, I handed the responsibility over to my folks when I came home exactly two months ago. Suddenly picking those things up seems a real stretch.

It sounds bizarre but we get used to things real quick. I only hope that with this pace that I’m going, I won’t settle in too much before I uproot myself again back to LA, where my heart belongs.

Two months later… things are better. But spare my heart, it still aches for the California sun.


Yours truly,

Asian hair

Do you know Asian hair is the most difficult to cut?

Four words: Black. Straight. Thick. Coarse.

And I was, all of the above. Plus I have more than three swirls in the back.

Why is it so hard?

  • Because it’s black, it’s heavy visually.
  • Because it’s straight, every cut shows. You can’t afford too many fuck-ups.
  • Because it’s thick, you need to trim a lot without making the client look like he just had a round of chemo.
  • Because it’s coarse, it tends to blow up if you never studied this type of hair cuticle.
  • And lastly, because you are dealing with swirls, you need to engage probably three or more different techniques (concave, overdirection, blending shears) to cut around or along.


In Shanghai, finding a legit hairdresser is not so much a scarcity issue, but more of a budget and vicinity issue. However, it was a nearly mission impossible when I moved to LA in 2015.

Why didn’t I grow my hair long like other Chinese women living abroad? Well, long hair was too much work for me because of my cursed greasy scalp. For the record, I did grow out my hair three tries before I called it a total strike-out.

I heard more than a few times how scarce good Asian-hair hairdresser was in the US. Then I arrived. It was, well, by and large the truth.

Here are some observations and lessons-learnt:

  • Unlike Shanghai where men dominate the hairdressing business; in LA, there are many more women cutting hair.
  • At first I went to a hair salon school for my monthly trim. It was cheap, good, although time-consuming. Because the hairdressers there were students who just began to learn cutting hair. I was their guinea pig.
  • Either the students cried for their sensei to save my hair, or I would end up screaming for supervisor to rescue me from some ballsy students’ attempts to be Edward Scissorhands IX.
  • Overtime, I learned a bank full of haircutting jargons, in order to convey what I want.
  • After I started working, I found a new hair salon in Westwood by a Vietnamese American couple, I gave it a try. It was expensive plus tip. But totally worth the money and the time. The hairdressers not only learned their techniques at the Vidal Sassoon Academy that is known for stylizing short hair, they also had trainings in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Before the Westwood joint, the owners used to cut hair in San Gabriel, where the Chinese populated.


In order to be the best, you need to cut as much Asian hair as possible. I asked my new Shanghai hairdresser today when a protégé can really start cutting hair that is not off the mannequin heads or their empathetic friends. He replied, “Three years. He can start cutting clients’ hair but it doesn’t mean he’s any good yet.”

Let’s do the math here:

  • You get a steady stream of Asian hair,
  • On an hourly basis,
  • Within a shop that opens from 10 am to 10 pm,
  • You take one day off per week,
  • You work through holidays like the Chinese New Year…

How much better and how much faster would you be comparing to the students in the LA beauty schools who may very well flip the fuck out when I’m assigned to them? And some really did…

The next question I’m thinking is:
So, where is the ‘Asian hair’ in the trade of screenwriting?


Yours truly,

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,

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.

Fear less, fear no more

The good news of being back is that I’m now burning RMB instead of USD. Roughly at the current ratio, seven RMB equals one USD.

But still, I’m burning my time at the same rate like everyone else.  Some of my college, high school friends are officially 31, married with kids, richer than ever.  In less than four months, I will be too, their age sans the man or the kid.

For the better part of my 3-0, I had lived in fear and dread.

  • I feared that I might not get the work visa.
  • I feared that I might be let go from my work.
  • I feared that I might have to pack everything and move back to China.
  • All the above.

By mid-October, all my worst fears became reality.

Am I in the fucking hell?  Hell, no. I’m back in Shanghai. I’m still alive even though tortured by pneumonia to no ends right now…

After living through my worst fear (thus far), wasting away dollars on bullshits like moving, customs courtesy, and doctor bills, I’m still able to keep my hope alive somehow.

Fear has not destroyed me, or twisted me. But it did change me… to be an optimist.

True, my heart got lacerated the day I left LA. I miss my LA friends dearly. I miss LA terribly for its weather, food, water, air… all the basics that I once shrugged and ignored.

Most of all, I feared that my drive was lost during the move. And yet, out in the desert, a new kind of drive is sprouting out, strong and steady.

I have taken on three writing projects at the moment.

  • One short film.
  • One feature rewrite.
  • One writeup for a company.

And a couple of others I’m developing for my artist visa.

Because of my recent readjustment back into my hometown, I have put my novel on hold. But I have been thinking about the story beats while I was doing the IV infusion.

By losing this much, I finally begin to focus on what’s absolutely necessary.

This time, I have no financial emergency, no landlord final notice, no impending fate to be decided.

This time, I’m racing against no one but time. How many 3-0 do we have in a lifetime, eh?

And yo, folks in LA, don’t you forget me too fast and furious, okay?


Yours truly,


Shanghai v. LA

Even before I was back in Shanghai, I knew I would go back to LA again.

It’s part gut feeling; part knowing myself too well.

Shanghai adores money too much to want to curate and cultivate talents.

LA adores money and fame nonetheless, if not more. But I feel that there are creative people daring and brave enough to be able to find a footing there.

LA is large enough to not to be distracted except for the gleefully California sun.

Shanghai is large too. But it’s too crowded to give a damn about craving space for creative people who aren’t the usual suspects: people in advertising and marketing. [Translation: people who work from 10 to 2 am who dress creative, talk creative, act creative because they have a business account to spend on.]

Shanghai is like New York in people density and busyness. But most Shanghai people are busy chasing money to pay off housing, imported baby powder, cars… to prove to their families and friends that they are leading a good life.

LA folks care about cars too. I’ve lived on Wilshire Blvd so I have had my share of vroom vroom symphonies. And yet, I feel okay to not own a car, or to own a second-hand car. Some don’t even care about new furniture. I’ve sold quite a few pieces of furnitures to students and fresh graduates who live on a budget.

In Shanghai, I buy everything brand new. It doesn’t even occur to me to look for second-hand stuff…

In the end, it’s not a race. It’s finding a good fit for oneself.

Some are lucky to be born into the city, the country that compliments their personality. While others have to search a little harder and longer.

And yet, the in-betweens complain about the place they were born into but never try to move elsewhere for a change.

I love Shanghai. It’s my hometown. But I don’t love it enough to want to live here forever even though my family is here.

I love LA. It’s the love of my life. I love it enough to leave my family and friends behind, again.


Yours truly,


Shanghai has changed a lot in three years.

I couldn’t find where to swipe the oyster card.

I had to study the stops before I get into the metro.

I almost always have a friend to guide me when cruising the city.

The city seems even more sleepless than three years ago.

And yet, there are things that I truly care about that haven’t changed one bit.

  • People still don’t respect others’ space.
  • People cut off lines all the time.
  • People smoke outside all the time.
  • People are loud when they talk in public.
  • The list goes on…

Some say things like the above take several generations. It may change and it may not.

I miss LA’s spaciousness and politeness.

To begin with, I miss LA’s coffee.

The coffee here is ridiculously expensive. My friend and I had two small coffees (Americano, Latte) for RMB 66. That is almost 10 dollars.

All I know is, Shanghai is an exciting cup of tea that is nutritious, fresh and presentable.

And yet, it’s not my cuppa tea…

Because of the things that are hard to change exactly.

Or I’ve come to love coffee.


Yours truly,


Back home

Okay. I’m back in Shanghai.

Where shall I begin?

I got on a plane at Sunday noon, 12:55 pm.

By the time my feet got back onto the ground, it was Monday, 6 pm.

It was a 13.5-hour flight. But since LA is 15 hours behind Shanghai, it feels like I’ve lost almost a day and half.

But it felt something more than just lost of time. I’ve lost the ability to call and meet my LA friends whenever I wanted. I’ve lost the freedom to get onto Google, YouTube, Facebook hassleless.

I tried to sleep but I couldn’t. I only managed 30 minutes of shut-eye. Whenever I tried to close my eyes, the faces of my dearest friends were right there. I tried to get closer to them only to be interrupted by the flight attendents’ footsteps.

Under my eyemask, I started weeping again. When I thought I had cried more than enough, I cried even some more. Hour by hour, I’d exceeded the volumn of tears of I’ve shed on a single day…

The plane arrived on Monday afternoon at 5:30 pm Shanghai time.

It was drizzling outside. How fitting. I had been raining inside.

Yesterday my parents and I went to the Postal Office to collect my stuff. It was rather smooth considering what I’d dreaded.

All fifteen boxes. All there. Safe and sound. Well, except my glass teapot, which was shattered in pieces and my spatular, which was broken in halves.

I love my parents. I love my cat. But I’ve realized that there is something more that I want for this life even it means to be far far far away from my family. I’ve realized that three years later, LA has become my home.

“You know what you should do after you’re back?”

I listened to my wiser friend as I sobbed in the departure lounge, not giving a damn who might be observing my ugly cry.

“I’m listening.” I murmured.

“Write it down. Write it all down.”

So I did.

And yes, I’m back.


Yours truly,