KoreAm Column: Love Love and Porn

credit: Jennifer Heuer

My August/September column for KoreAm Journal is now available online.  This one has to do with my second novel, Love Love, and how/why I ended up writing about pornography.

From time to time, at a slightly greater frequency than a visit by Halley’s Comet, people ask me what my second novel, Love Love, is about. I usually tell them it stars Korean American siblings in pre-midlife crisis mode. I also mention tennis, since the brother is an ex-professional tennis player. Then I say, hey, it’s about art, too, because the sister is a struggling painter.

At this point the person nods and waits because I’m not done.

“I also wrote about pornography,” I say. Although I mean to mention this without any added inflection or emotion, I usually find that my voice betrays me, so I end up with, “I also wrote about pornography?” Almost as if I’m asking for permission.

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The graphic you see above was one of the alternate covers that the brilliant artist, Jennifer Heuer, came up with.  Kinda goes well with the post…

KoreAm Column: Welcome to the Club

erasure

My bi-monthy column for KoreAm Journal for March/April features the music of my youth, Erasure in particular.  Enjoy!

First-World Problems: Welcome to the Club

This past New Year’s Eve, I was on the second floor of Terminal 5, a concert hall in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen. Leaning over the railing, I screamed, “I love to hate you!” with the rest of the frenzied crowd below me, above me, all around me. As the song reached its end, the singer segued into a countdown, and then he yelled, “Happy New Year!” Gold balloons and white confetti rained down from above, and then we all sang the next song, “I try to discover, a little something to make me sweeter …”

If you are of a certain age and Asian American, there’s a high likelihood that you know these two songs are “Love to Hate You” and “A Little Respect.” This was my first time seeing Erasure. I probably should’ve done this a quarter of a century ago, but back then, I didn’t even know who they were, and more to the point, I didn’t know who I was.

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First-World Problems: The Forbidden Fruit

My third column for KoreAm is up!  This one is about two of my favorite subjects, Costco and my mother.

Costco is one of my mother’s favorite places in the world. As a child of the Korean War, scarcity has always carried psychological weight for her, and nothing buoys that heaviness like watching a forklift move a heaping pallet of fruit. I can still remember the first time I took her to the Costco warehouse in Ocean, New Jersey, where she was living at the time.

“America,” she’d said, pointing at the colors of the signage outside the building. It was true: COSTCO in red, WAREHOUSE in blue, the letters outlined in white.

And it was America on the inside, too, a muscular exhibition of capitalism. There was so much of everything—mounds of sweatshirts, pillars of pistachio nuts—and goods offered in such enormous sizes. My mother walked up to a display that looked like a fortress constructed of olive oil. Not only was each bottle a gallon in size, they were tied together in twos.

“I do need olive oil,” she said.

“It’ll take you five years to use that up!” I said.

She heaved the glistening duo into her cart.

“Yes, but you never know.”

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KoreAm Column: Missing What’s Loved and Lost

First-World Problems

I just realized my bi-monthly KoreAm column was actually posted two weeks ago.  It’s about my favorite local restaurant closing down…

Last week, my wife Dawn and I were two streets away from our home in Washington, New Jersey. We were behind several cars, waiting for the light to change, so we did what we always do—looked to our left, to Russo’s Ristorante, the beige building with a faded red canvas awning. On the door was a taped-up sign: “CLOSED FOR FAMILY EMERGENCY.”

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I just drove by the old place today and a new restaurant has moved in: Juanito’s.  It’ll be a Mexican joint, and it looks like it’ll be opening soon.  I’m glad the space won’t go to waste, but it’s still kinda sad.