Monday, May 26, 2008

Literary Long Ago

I am in this book called Best Gay Asian Erotica, edited by Joel Tan. I began my writing life writing nothing but Gay Asian life. Embracing who I am was part of my development as an artist and a man. From my recent work, you can see that I began writing about other things as well.

Not too long ago, I began going through old folders in my computer. I ran across a long short story that I started in the mid-nineties. It was really the first story that I'd ever cared about developing. It runs 50 pages long and it's about a gay Asian health worker in the mid-nineties and his unfulfilled love life. (Back then, I was a gay Asian health worker with an unfulfilled love life.)

I sort of abandoned it. Recently, I started picking at it again. It reminds me of a time and place in my life that I'd said farewell to. It was inspired from a bar called Mugi's that is now called The Stone.


I used to hate it here. I mean Ito's is not exactly the Bonaventure Hotel. It's old and dismal, a real dive. Ito's is located in the east end of Hollywood. Far from the Mann's Chinese theatre and the Walk of Fame. Ito's is surrounded with decaying brick buildings. These brick buildings would have probably housed starlets back in the 1930's, but not today.

Ito's bar attracts a very interesting clientele. There's a lot of Korean, Mandarin, Cantonese, Tagalog, Japanese, Thai, and other Asian languages spoken here. Most of the guys here aren't Asian-American like me. Most of these guys are from Asia.

Not too many Asian Americans come to Ito's. Many of us, American born or bread Asians, will party in the bars in Silverlake or West Hollywood. We look at Ito's as that embarrassing place where people who can barely speak English go, where their rough accents are painful to our ears.

I don't know why we divide ourselves: Asian-Asian versus Asian Americans. That's just so.

Lesson # 1: There are certain things that just are, no rhyme or reason.


jeff said...

Hmm, well, at least now you're not a... health worker? :-)

Not sure much has changed. I know one of the bars in SF is still considered to be where the FOBs go, and most of the Asian-Americans go elsewhere.

Don Cummings said...

I love the old stuff.
Bring on the old stuff!

It's always laid out there so straight up....

With its untrained voice. LOVE IT>

thelastnoel said...

Yeah, Jeff, I hear ya. For those who don't know what FOB stand for: Fresh of the Boat.

Don, yeah, it'sw funny reading the person I used to be. It hurts my sensibilities now, but it was so unabashed before. I enjoy it as well.

Paul said...

Very nice. I'll have to pick this up.

It's interesting, my version of Mugi ened up being called "Incense." I use a highly fictional version of it extensively in my novel and in my short story "Kama."

Peter Varvel said...

I love it, as well. I hope you continue/finish the story--it's such a specific time capsule.
I like that part of it is based on how spaces are created for those that do not feel they fit in the "normal" spaces.

Cheryl said...

Great and intriguing beginning. And I like how 1994 now feels like a part of L.A. history--I read that passage trying to remember Was that what Hollywood was like in 1994? Pre-Hollywood-and-Highland? Yep, I think it was.

Los Angelista said...

Cheryl makes such a great point. Things change so quickly that your setting now seems like a slower-paced, friendlier version of the near Eastside.

Sundry said...

Very interesting.

I was just listening to a podcast of Fresh Air last night in which Terry Gross interviewed Michael Chabon about his novel, _The Yiddish Policemen's Union_. It's about a fictional time/place in which a part of Alaska was set aside as a Jewish homeland right after WWII. In it, Chabon apparently addresses the divisions in the Jewish community between various levels of orthodoxy and secular Jews.

Anyway, this sort of thing is really fascinating. The ways we group and the ways we define ourselves within groups. I put that Chabon book on my to read list, and I'd read this story too.