Interview with Timo of CrazyChineseFamily.com

It’s been a while since I had any interviews with bloggers, but I have a great one for you now! Presenting Timo, of the blog Crazy Chinese Family. I recommend you check it out, one of the best for East meets West stories about the wife and cute kid and of course the crazy Chinese mother-in-law…

 

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What inspired you to be a blogger?

I am actually not really sure what inspired me. I tried out blogging about ten years ago for a while but never really stuck with it and gave up after few months. Probably this was due to the non-existing focus. I was blogging about all kinds of things from art over economics to sports…

It took me a long time until I started with CrazyChineseFamily in 2013. Back then I had been together with my wife for over three years and somehow stories about my crazy Chinese mother-in-law just piled up. Then after my in-laws had been at our home in Finland for nearly a month I just couldn’t hold back any longer, I needed to share those stories and thus this blog was born.

 

What kind of blogs do you enjoy reading? 

I love reading all kinds of blogs but the majority is about interracial relationships especially between Westerners and Asians. Other blogs are about travels, food (I just love food!) and also personal blogs by authors. Why authors you might think… Well, I actually started to write a novel some years ago but never even finished the first draft. Because of this I am really interested what tips sometimes authors share on their blogs, what hardships they go through, what they like to read and so on.

 

What kind of books do you like, and who are your favorite authors?

It is all about fantasy for me. I can’t say why but I just love the fantasy genre, nearly my entire book collection is about that topic. As any Fantasy geek my favorite author is Tolkien but there are so many other talented authors that I will just throw in a few of them randomly like Patrick Rothfuss, Steven Erikson, Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson and so on.

Besides fantasy books I also got a small manga collection. I guess I have roughly 300 manga in my shelves though I haven’t bought any new one for at least eight years. I have read mostly Shōnen and Seinen manga. Examples are Akira Toriyama’s Dragonball series, Rumiko Takahashi’s Ranma 1/2 and Inu Yasha, then of course Kouta Hirano’s Hellsing, and Kentaro Miura’s Berserk. Besides these manga which are much about fighting, I also read all kinds of other genres such as some cooking manga, or many about sports such as by Mitsuru Adachi. Now that I moved back to Germany I already took some notes on what manga are still missing in certain series, so I guess there is still hope that I will get back into this whole thing again.

 

You get personal in your blog at times. Have you ever gotten in trouble with your wife or mother-in-law by sharing too much? 

My wife has no troubles about what I write about and truth to be told, my mother-in-law has no clue about this blog. I can’t even imagine what her reaction might be. It could be anything from being pissed at me, forcing her daughter to divorce me, or feeling honored and what not all else. She is a very unpredictable person so anything is possible.

However I have no doubt that she has her own micro blog on Weibo writing about her crazy son-in-law. As I never really write anything about myself my readers actually don’t know what kind of wacko I am myself but I have some blog posts planned to give more insights about that weird guy who writes about his crazy Chinese mother-in-law, but this is still work in progress soon.

 

Some of the situations your MIL gets into seem very stressful! Is there an element of therapy when it comes to sharing by blogging?

Definitely! I started to blog because there was just so much crazy stuff going on with my MIL. When she was for the first time with us in Finland weird things just happened on a daily basis. Not only that she did weird things but also her behavior such as that she never ever does anything wrong, it is always someone’s else’s fault…

So when I started to write these things down it help me to relax a bit even with her around. The hard part back in Finland was also that our apartment was tiny so there was no way to avoid her except by clearing my head through blogging about her and the rest of the family.

 

Any good crazy MIL story stands out that you’d like to share, as an introduction?

You know the feeling when you go with a little child to the Zoo and the little one got troubles getting animal names, right? It is pretty cute as you know that everything is still so new to them and that they have enough time to learn during their lifetime. This whole thing ain’t cute any longer when a grownup is calling a polar bear a sea lion, a seal is suddenly a big fish and a lynx transforms into a tiger. This particular grownup is my dear Chinese mother-in-law. According to herself she is the biggest animal lover in the world who knows how to treat them right. Ehm…perhaps in a sick and twisted parallel universe. She can’t tell what animal is right in front of her, she gives dogs the spiciest food she can get and she doesn’t understand why a dog should take a walk more than once a month. Anything else I should add to help you understand why I am so amazed by her animal love? I think not!

 

What originally brought you to China in the first place?

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HSK: 漢語水平考試

你好!

Better late than never:

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A number of months ago I studied and studied until I was ready to take the HSK (Hanyu shuiping kaoshi/漢語水平考試, that is ‘Mandarin Chinese level test) level four. (四級)

Honestly, I’m not particularly good at Chinese. I have no natural talent at languages. I have however been constantly writing and rewriting characters over the last several years.

I didn’t take the level three, but the way to study is to memorize 600 vocabulary words from that test, and then 600 more level four. By the way, I’m obviously better at using pinyin feature to learn 漢字, which means I type Latin letters — English alphabet basically — on computers and phones. I can’t actually write all those characters from scratch, but I can definitely recognize them for reading. It’s like even in English I’m a bad speller but thank goodness for technology.

By the way my computer is stuck on Traditional script 繁體字. That’s okay.

I’d estimate I know 1800 to 2000 characters by heart? And still many thousands more to learn…

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So I met with my tutor once a week, and she set up the test at Shenzhen University 深大. I took practice tests many times over. The test portions consist of listening, reading, and writing. Putting sentences in order is among the hardest parts, and I improved the most on listening.. I think I average about a solid 80-something percent B.

Somehow my reading is not half-bad for a foreigner, if I do say so myself, yet I still struggle with spoken Chinese. I need to get out there more.

Anyway, it’s been months and now I got the certificate in the mail. I can hang it on my wall and put on a resume. See how that works out for me in the future.

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Perhaps next year the HSK 5–

 

Chinglish lesson – 巴

Today’s Chinglish comes with a free short lesson.

The character 巴 “ba” is often used in phonetic translations. It can stand for “bar” (酒吧 jiuba – alcohol bar) as well as “bus” (巴士 bashi – bus, simply phonetically)

So you see, honest mistake here.

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CHINESE MOON

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The Moon isn’t there
And nobody cares
The daylight is screaming
The twilight receding
And you aren’t here

The stars in the city
Invisibly swimming
But the moonlight
It stays bright
And your obscene, yes somehow, is fitting

Do we see the same sky?
When we star up, and we’re high?
Or is the Moon an illusion?
An optical trance-state
A visionary-escapist intrusion?

I don’t believe in stars
Here in the city
The distances between us
It’s just much too far
To buy the idea
Of gaslights exploding
And sunlights departing
And gravity’s spinning, while atmospheres boiling
And dying

No, there is no moon
But there may be a sun
Yes, we might see the same one…

 

 

11/10/08

Interview with a Chinese Learner

Interview With a Chinese Learner: Ray Hecht

Originally posted at EazyChinese.com
http://eazychinese.com/interview-chinese-learner-2

Hey everyone, how’s it going? Today I’m coming at you with another interview. Today’s victim is Chinese learner Ray Hecht. He”s been living in Mainland China for years, and has a lot of interesting things to say on his blog about China, dating in China and learning Chinese. Plus he shares some pretty sweet art and poetry as well, so hop on over to his site and check out his writing! Being a fellow comic geek, I can relate to a lot of what he has to say!

Now on to the interview.

Q: What Made you decide to learn Chinese?

I was first interested in Asian culture by way of Japanese manga and anime, being a long-time comic geek in my youthful days (and still a geek in my older days). As I got older I became more interested in film, and after watching many classic Kurosawa I came upon Cantonese films of Wong Kar-wai in my teenage years. Eventually this led to watching the film Farewell my Concubine, directed by Chen Kaige, which is one of my favorite movies of all time. In addition to watching the 90s films of Chinese 5th generation filmmaker Zhang Yimou, I became fascinated by China. However, I studied Japanese in college. Learning kanji did give me me a head start in learning hanzi, although the languages are quite different. I never did end up moving to Japan, just visiting a few times (learning some of the language did help). I later got an opportunity to move to Shenzhen and I fully embraced it. Currently, Mandarin is the only other language besides English I speak with any fluency, though I always have more to learn.

Q:How long have you been a student of Chinese, and how long did it take you to become conversational?

I’ve been studying for six years, and in the first year I learned ‘survival Chinese.’ I’ve been getting better at being more conversational in the last 3 years I suppose, but on having deep conversations I know I still have ways to go. The problem is that most conversations are the same: “Where are you from?”, “Are you married?” “How many years have you been in China?” etc.

Q:What was your biggest challenge learning Chinese? And what came easiest to you?

My biggest challenge at first was definitely the tones. Then, the characters although I am always making progress even though it takes years. When it comes to characters, just be patient but make a little progress all the time. In speaking, the grammar of Chinese is easier and I was able to formulate simple sentences quite fast (even if not pronouncing it correctly). “I like…” “I’m from…” and that sort of thing.

Q:What advice would you give to our readers who are just embarking on their journey with Chinese?

I suppose the best advice is to be fully immersive, go to China — or Taiwan, or Singapore — and start speaking. If you are in a big city in China, be careful not to be in the bubble that is the expat scene in which you rarely even speak Mandarin. Push yourself to practice those phrases you studied in real-life, it’s the only way!

Q:Do you have a favorite Chinese phrase? If so, what is it and why?

Well, 多少錢 duoshaoqian (“How much money?”) would be the phrase I say the most often, in going out shopping everyday. Some vocabulary words are fun, when Chinese can be so literal. Technological words such as 電腦 diannao (electric brain: computer) and 電影 dianying (electric shadow: movie) and many more.

Q:What’s your one biggest “hack” for learning Chinese?

One trick is to not stress about tones too much, and just try wait you’re best until one day it becomes effortless. You can still communicate, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. With pronunciation, one can imitate another more advanced learner of Mandarin instead of imitating native speakers. After all, any fluent learner was once a beginner and can offer great advice.

Thanks for taking the time to share with us Ray! I hope everyone will learn from Ray’s experiences, and move forward in their own studies. I especially agree with his point on getting out there and SPEAKING. So what are you still doing here? Get out there and practice your Chinese!

Dating in China – Last of the POFs

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For me, 2013 was the most dramatic of years. It started slow, with early episodes displaying a simple lack of confidence and success. Then I tried to make up for lost time, and went too far. I found myself stuck in the quagmire of drama and heartache and stalking.

Throughout the year, while I did go to a whole other country for romance, in the meantime I tried my best to put myself out there and meet cooler girls, and was subsequently rejected multiple times. Chinese and foreigners alike. Former coworkers, girls I met on the subway, all those I met in real life seemed not to be impressed by me. So I went by the tried-and-true method of online dating, and that means the website of POF…

 

Sonia

Early into the year’s journeys, I emailed a pleasant helo to Sonia. She was an engineer from Iran who lived in the outer suburbs of Shenzhen. (A suburb in a Chinese doesn’t mean picket fences. It means desolate places near factories and far from the interesting, modern parts of the city.) We flirted and I invited her on a tour of downtown, with me as guide.

Being from Iran, it was very interesting to talk to Sophia about politics and culture. Nothing was off-limits. I was left with a very good impression of modern Iran, which sadly is an impression that many Americans do not get these days.

I could put out a disclaimer to everyone: Not only am I Jewish, I was born in Israel. It is my heritage and my ethnicity, but I don’t think of it as having that much to do with my identity these days. My father is American and I moved to the U.S. as a baby. I know no Hebrew. I am basically an atheist — I like to call myself a “mystical atheist” but no time for an extensive theological discussion here — and I feel great antagonism towards organized religion. I have zero interest in going to Israel and joining the military to fight for an apartheid state surrounded by brainwashed lunatics, thank you very much.

Culturally, the Jewish people have brought great advances to Western culture as well as science. I think history has shown educated liberal Jews going to America is a perfect fit. Politically and culturally, Israel is another story. It is a somewhat messier and more complex place, and I do not think history has shown that Zionism has accomplished much of anything at all. Well, too late now. The region is what it is. I do not wish to delve too deeply into controversial politics, that’s not the point of this blog. Just letting you know how I feel, just letting you know where I’m coming from when it comes to meeting Persian girls.

Sonia did not seem to be racist against Jews whatsoever. She came across as a very worldly open-minded person, and she gave me a hell of a chance. She did tell me that it was hell to be in Saudi Arabia, and Iranians liked traveling to Turkey so they could act out more freely. She was politically very much against Israel, and on that I pretty much agreed.

Iranians abroad, from my understanding, tend to reject theocratic-conservative values and do whatever they want to do as 21st century human beings. Sonia confirmed this. She had no issues with being the naively feminine sort; and yeah there was intimacy that first night.

She wasn’t my type, to be perfectly honest. Attraction-wise. A big girl albeit with a pretty face, but I’m simply not into big girls. What we had between us was an opportunity I wanted to experience, and hence we shared an experience. I have now learned on an intrinsic level that young Iranians are absolutely not religious fundamentalists, I know it as deeply as possible, and hey I hope that can be good for American-Iranian relations.

So, it definitely wasn’t any potential boyfriend-girlfriend dating situation and she knew it. I guess we were supposed to be fuckbuddies, as certain expats abroad like to do to pass the time, but we never ended up repeating the experience.

She invited me to her place to cook one another time, and it was very nice of her. But I didn’t like that area. I didn’t stay over. We made some other plans but kept cancelling and it didn’t develop. I don’t remember the details, but I do recall a text saying that it was over and she got mad at me. Perhaps I was dating someone else, perhaps there was some overlapping drama at that junction. It all became something of a blur in the midst of that year.

I hope I wasn’t too rude.

I hope I didn’t leave her with a poor impression of Jewish Americans.

 

Jing

I met Jing on POF, and we corresponded a while before meeting. Always too busy, she was yet another girl who lived far away, and even our first date when we finally did meet it was a bad date. Luckily, she gave me another chance.

Somehow, over the course of the year, Jing became my most stable friend-with-benefits. For several months, she was my most drama-free of dates and for that I will forever be grateful to her.

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Dating in China – Yuki, gross

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Not that this was the same time period, but here’s me in Tokyo!

I sincerely try not to judge people.

I really do. I try, and I don’t always succeed, but I try. Intellectually I know I shouldn’t be judgmental.

When it comes to sexually promiscuous women, I can be torn. On the one hand, we are all adults and we should be free to do whatever we want. Me included. Some people express themselves sexually and they are healthy about it, they want to give themselves pleasure and society shouldn’t force arbitrary rules causing unnecessary shame. It’s simple, really.

Yet, there is on the other hand: how some people seem to warrant further psychoanalyzing to see why they are having all that wild anonymous group sex. Certain peoples with issues and acting out. Can’t help but wonder what’s wrong. Or at least, can’t we be morbidly curious about why people are the way they are?

I still have some enlightening to do myself…

Honestly, I don’t even care that all that much. It’s not my business. Let me start over. This is all from a totally amoral standpoint.

I simply don’t want her to text me those pictures of her fucking multiple men, and often pictures of her fucking those multiple men at once. I’m just not into seeing that. And she kept sending them unsolicited again and again. Emails, text apps. Skanky invitations (for lack of a better term), I’d tell her to leave me alone, and she continuously pushed at me and pushed at me the most graphic sexual imagery possible.

That’s weird, right?

 

Yuki

I don’t think it was a moment of desperation or anything like that. A mere moment of playfulness. Not particularly special or anything.

Well, after online dating for so long, the odds were in my favor that eventually I’d meet someone off and the drama would begin.

So. I was single now and feeling frisky one day, as single men tend to do, and I messaged some lady on POF and said I was doing a survey on hand jobs. Rate your skill 1 to 10. Funny much?

She was apparently intrigued and messaged me back.

Yuki was my age. She’d done some kind of trading business. I know she’d been to Vegas before and was internationally-minded enough. Her ‘name’ was a Japanese (Chinese people rarely use their real names when speaking English to foreigners, they usually choose a Western name but some people do like to be called something more exotic). She wasn’t all that hot. She was curvy for a Chinese woman. She was quite willing. How was I to know it would turn out bad?

After a latenight dinner we took a taxi to my house and so on. Whatever. We met a few times after that I guess. It wasn’t like that memorable. She wasn’t supposed to have turned out to be this big a deal still bothering me today.

Some time passed, there was no indication that we should become a serious couple, and one day she asked if she could stay at my place for several days. Um, what?

She had been telling me she was looking for a new place, looking to move. She was just in-between. It happens. Or, does it?

It was terrible. I can be such a sucker. I laid out some ground rules, and I let her bring over luggages and crash. She went out to work or something in the days, and then came over at nights and left many dirty dishes and crap lying around.

Worst of all, she was always around. My whole personal routine was interrupted. I like to be alone most of the time, to be honest.

I do invite people over from time to time. I’ve written about Couchsurfing, for example. Thing about those situations though, is that there is a plan beforehand. A specific date of when the guest leaves, an endpoint.

Yuki soon overstayed her welcome and I told her she needed to get out. This wasn’t cool. She needed to get the hell out of my house.

It was hard to read this person. I mean, she’d been abroad. A moderately middle-class Chinese woman, I’d suppose. Didn’t seem like she was broke. It’s not hard to find an apartment in Shenzhen, so why did she need to be in-between like this?

Was she actually homeless, drifting from man to man’s houses? Or, just desperate for human contact?

I don’t know. I don’t want to know too much. Just stop taking advantage of me.

Then, another day a month or so later, it came eerily close to stalking.

That time she came over without warning was unacceptable. I hate when women do that. I have a routine, I need to be alone to be productive. I don’t like surprises. Sure I let her stay over, but I told her in no uncertain terms that she could never ever come over unannounced again.

When I later moved, I made it a point to not forward her my new address.

And lest you think I’m some pig rejecting an innocent Chinese girl who only wanted to be my girlfriend… Then the explicitness began.

Now, I’m not necessarily opposed to sexting. I may indulge in such from time to time. But when the unsolicited nude pictures started, and were then followed up by pictures of sex with other men’s dicks, I had to politely ask her to stop. She can be exhibitionist all she wants, but don’t I get to inform consent?

And they kept on coming. Dick pics. Other men’s dicks. More dicks. Then two dicks at once. Then a video. Then more.

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Dating in China – Jeanie, girlfriends

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Finally cutting the long hair, an era ended. She took the picture

In the midst of my general soul-searching of late, I realize that I put too much prudence on the idea of having a girlfriend. As opposed to the specific individuality of a person and how her personality and vibe would match with mine. I tend to rely too much on false hope, without any real foundation, and reap the consequences of such later. This kind of thing may go for this episode.

Mid-2012. I was meeting girls from time to time, whatever. I wanted more. I wanted a partner, stability, someone to hang out to always be there to hang out with me. Tired of the chase, I wanted the idea.

I met Jeanie on the ol’ website. She thought I was interesting, and funny! Believe it or not.

She was Chinese; she was educated and worked in some international company. I think she made more money than me.

She had the most perfect skin. She wasn’t the most beautiful woman I ever met, but she was the most beautiful woman I ever met online.

The problem with meeting a partner online, I always say, is it’s not a good story of how you met.

But who really cares about the stigma of dating online that in this day and age?

I suppose the simple truth of why it didn’t work out is we didn’t have all that much in common. We ran out of things to talk about. I’d repeat myself. There wasn’t that much to confide, not that much to be deep over.

For a while, we did have a pleasant routine. She was always busy with work, which was far away in Luohu. We went to all the cool dating places early on, such as when we went to the top of the KK Building – tallest building in Shenzhen. I tried taking her to parties but she wasn’t into it. The rave was a particularly bad idea, she was so bored. There was one cool episode when she babysat me tripping on smuggled psilocybin chocolate at Lianhua Mountain.

But sooner or later, every weekend would roll around and she would be too tired to go about town and she just wanted to chill in my Meilin apartment. I suppose nothing wrong with that. Just the two of us tended to be quite nice. We watched a lot of Mad Men.

I was very serious about writing back then, and spent most of my free time on my novel. I didn’t need to be a super fun-time-all-the-time social butterfly type, and she didn’t want that from me. My popularity in the Shenzhen scene was waning. “Didn’t you move to Guangzhou?” everyone said, unaware that I’d been back for a while and uncaring. Which suited me fine. I was in my own little world.

We did travel once. We only went to Zhuhai, but we did go there together and it was nice.

Zhuhai is beach town two hours away from Shenzhen. I’ve been there several times. It borders the former Portuguese colony – and current gambling pit – of Macau, and is one of the four original Special Economic Zones of reformed China. (Shenzhen, by the by, being the first of the SEZs.)

Zhuhai happens to be her hometown, and she was visiting her family one holiday three-day weekend and I decided to tag along. After her filial duties, I bused over and met her at a hotel. She showed me around some islands and we taxied around to eat and to shop and to see the sights. It’s a fun place to explore at night.

“Welcome to Zhuhai,” she said on the hotel bed.

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Zoey – the end

Dating in China or anywhere else in the world, breakups usually don’t just happen in one swift moment. It’s not like one second you’re in a relationship, and the next second you are officially single and you can use a stopwatch to catch the exact nanosecond. No, it’s a fuzzy math sorta thing. It softly fades, it backtracks and starts again. There is no specific point, it’s not digital it’ is analog. It’s a fractal.

Autumn, 2010. I had come back from America, while concurrently trying to convince a girl from my hometown to come follow me to Shenzhen, ready for a new apartment and a slightly new life. This time I had a smaller more city-ish apartment off Shennan Road (the central artery of the city), near a park and it suited me well. The fancy high-rises aren’t me.

Just one roommate, an American fellow with his own business. He was a bad drunk but a very good roommate. He had his own thing going on, and we’d hang out on occasion and leave each other alone when necessary. No roomie pressure. I worked more, made money. Started writing again, researched for a certain story, that ol’ dream postponed since coming here was starting up again and things were looking good.

Meanwhile, I needed to settle things with Zoey. I simply said we were in a rut. Then, after pressed for more, I was completely honest about the other girl in America. Oh, that vague situation that turned out to have no real meaning. She cried, my own heart was stretched thin, and feeling like shit and hating myself I then concluded that I was a bad person.

With Zoey, it wasn’t even the first time we’d broken up. Yet it was the most serious reason so far. Was it final yet? No. Numbed, we talked about it too much and acted on it too little, just ended up continuing the same things. We kept in touch, fell into bed a few times. I wasn’t sure what I wanted.

She wrote me a letter that tore me apart, and she told me “I’m not ready.” I thought and I thought, and some on-again-off-agains from time time, and I gave in. I decided we belonged together and it was time for me to do the right thing and stay with her. And stay with her I did.

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Dating in China 1

Begins. September, 2008, I arrive in China. Fresh after reinventing myself, neural reprogramming with lysergic acid dymethelmide, plus introspective road trips and self-improvement strategies. Was I ever ready for a new start.

Firstly, it should be noted that I’m a latebloomer as is. I hadn’t had a girlfriend in quite a while, to be honest. Didn’t really do well for myself in Southern California those previous three years.

Long before even that era, there was the main hometown girlfriend of my youth. Back in Cincinnati, Ohio, my adopted homeland. Ashley was a former opiates addict with dead eyes and a kind heart. The timing wasn’t right and she still had further healing that I could not help with, but it was valuable experience for both of us. We had fun and clubbed and talked all night and we grew. Eventually apart. Kept in touch a while, then I’d decided to seek my fortune on the West Coast. Goodbye, Ashley.

And before her, a few. One older woman punk rocker who taught me various things comes to mind. For the most part there were various crushes that usually never amounted to much. If they amounted to anything in the distant future, then I’ll write about it later if I think it’s worth mentioning.

Some other occasional learning experiences, few and far between, this and that. The early years weren’t kind, that’s all.

As of the arrival, my most recent girlfriend did happen to be Chinese-American. Oddly enough. I never planned for this kind of fever, I swear. Lila was just my type at the time, slim designer, a cutesy sweetheart, a real innocent. We met on a film set when I was living in hipster Silverlake for a few months. We held hands on camera, so cute.

I think Lila may have only liked me for my wannabe bohemian starving-artist ways. Liked it as a phase. We went to shows and talked about comics and she drove me around. Eventually she left me to go back to her ex-boyfriend, an exceedingly-square law school student. Security, right? Sell-out. While we stayed friends when I returned to Long Beach, it was more than a little awkward when she would repeatedly introduce me to her boyfriend. Perhaps she was playing games, with either one of us sap guys, who knows now. After a crazy time in San Diego (involving salvia divinorum) I confronted her and it went more sour between us. Last I heard she married recently.

A handful of flings in between as well, but can’t say I had much of a successful love life during those cold sunny years.
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