Always Goodbye: 1954 – 1984

This here is my autobiographical comic, Always Goodbye. Just a humble lo-fi take on my life, year-by-year…

 

Read them first at Webtoons.com: https://www.webtoons.com/en/challenge/always-goodbye/list?title_no=224697

 

Prologue, my parents meet in the middle of the world, I am born, and the family grows and goes. Suffice to say, to be continued–

 

 

 

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Reflections on the year 2016

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2016 was, to say the least, a tumultuous year.

It’s already something of a meme to say that 2016 sucks so much. And yeah, that’s largely true specifically in the political sense anyway.

However, in my personal life I can definitely declare that though it’s been hard I can claim lot of positive growth over the past year. I traveled the world, I promoted some writing, I published here and there, wrote another book, and I even moved in with my girlfriend!

There has been a lot on this very blog worth share. I reviewed, I interviewed. And although at this stage it’s hard to say if it will lead anywhere, one of my personal productive favorites of the year was starting anew on my hobby of drawing silly little comics.

In thinking over this arbitrary marking of the Earth going around the sun that we all mark on our calendars, I have thought about it most nostalgically and created a list of links below. Here, a few posts that stand out to me to sum up the crazy intensities of this most epically year:

 

In February, right after Chinese New Year, I was lucky enough to be detained by the Chinese police after attending an unlicensed rave party. I tested negative for drugs and was soon released, while sadly others I knew tested positive, leaving me with the opportunity to write what proved to be my most popular piece of writing ever. The guys over at Reddit China were somewhat opinionated. But I had my say.

Hey it even led to a piece I wrote for the Wall Street Journal.

 

With my novel South China Morning Blues published — from Blacksmith Books, Hong Kong — in late 2015, I was very focused on promoting the book all over Shenzhen (and Guangzhou, and Hong Kong) over the beginning of the following year and on. It was a big part of my job for months on end. The highlight was definitely in March when I went to both Beijing and Chengdu for a little get-together known as the Bookworm Literary Festival.

 

The travel it did continue. I visited the great country/not country of Taiwan as part of my girlfriend Bronwen’s art residency in May. Absolutely wonderful place. There will be more on Taiwan come the next new year.

And in June it was time to go to Israel for the bi-annual visiting of the family. What a trip I met some little nieces and nephews, saw my parents, had emotions, all the while some legal complications came up and had to be dealt with.

 

One event that really stood out in the summer was the art exhibition by Bronwen and some other locally sourced artists over at Sin Sin Fine Art in Hong Kong. Great work. I happened to write an article about it.

 

At last, the dreaded subject of American politics. Over the second half of 2016, I carried on with my life and moved and wrote and promoted, meanwhile in America (totally affecting the rest of the world) it all went well and truly insane. I became rather consumed in following the politics of the horrible election cycle. Finally, of all things, I was forced to start writing political columns. The anxieties of the day before, then November’s horrific results, and a touch of conspiracy theory commentary.

Sadly, at this rate I will probably have yet more to say in 2017. A lot more. Despite the apocalyptic scenarios at hand, I’ll try to be optimistic about the new year. What’s certainly true is that nobody knows what will happen next.

 

Thus was the year. I and you survived. Thanks for paying attention to me and my humble perspective. On a concluding note, let us mourn the actual concept of truth and facts with this cartoon by Tom Tomorrow… RIP truth~

Good luck to 2017, we’ll need it!

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Bureaucratic kerfuffle in Israel: My Trip

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There I am

As you may know from brief biographies published on occasion, I am American but I happened to be born in Israel. But what does that exactly mean? I moved when I was a baby and I don’t speak Hebrew, I don’t even particularly care about Israel other than a general appreciation for the Western mythological tradition, and in fact if you speak to me in private I would express that I am quite critical of the intense political situation there. If you wanna get into religion then let me say I’m basically atheist at this point.

I identify myself as completely American and somewhat proud of that—not that America is perfect but there is an argument to be made that America’s contributions to the world do outnumber the negatives. And, America is just plain more interesting.

The short and long of it is that I left Israel at two-years old. I have no memory as “sabra”. My dad is from Chicago and my mom is from the former Soviet Union; they met there and me and my sister were born abroad but raised in the United States of America: the midwestern states of Indiana and Ohio to be specific. I consider my hometown to be Cincinnati. For the past decade I’ve had a California driver’s license. Even though I’ve lived in another interesting country for quite a while, China, I will always consider myself an American abroad.

I did visit Israel a few times in my adult life. When I was a teenager on one of those trips, a couple times to see family. What can I say? The food is good. It’s English-friendly and easy to get around. That’s about the main takeaway for me.

So, over the last several years my sister has chosen to live in Jerusalem and do the whole religious thing. Not for me, but to each their own. She has a family, a precocious hyper son whom I met at a wedding in Florida two years ago. Since then, her family has grown with the addition of two super-cute nieces I had yet to meet. Hence, the time came for one of those international trips to meet the family!

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Ridiculously super-cute

I had arranged to fly from Hong Kong to Tel Aviv for a brief, one-week trip. My mom was flying in as well. Right off the bat, unwelcoming Israeli security became an issue as I was personally escorted through the HK airport. It was better than the strip search last time. The real bureaucratic issue was when, after the grueling 11-hour flight, I was told off at the Ben-Gurion customs…

See, I have never even had an Israeli passport. I left as a baby under my parents’. I could claim dual citizenship, but I’ve never had any desire whatsoever. In 2011 I came for my sister’s wedding, and there wasn’t a problem with my U.S. passport until I left and a border guard yelled at me for not having an Israeli passport. I was told I would not be allowed in next time without it. In the years since I tried my best to forget about that. It was kind of offensive, being told what my identity is.

They must have remembered, because when I came in the guard knew I was warned already and gave me a very hard time for not getting the passport. Gotta give their record-keeping system credit. Apparently I had to go to the Ministry of the Interior to sort it out, or I would not be allowed to leave the country!

Bit scary to be told that. What, should I contact the American embassy and say Israel is trying to kidnap me? I do get it; Israel is very aggressive about getting more migration for their own reasons. However, I am not into it. Least I know I’m too old to get drafted.

I suppose it could come in handy if there was a world disaster and I needed a second country’s passport. Still, I try not to plan my life around paranoia.

So, they eventually let me through. I was nervous but ready to embrace the trip. My Dad—who happened to be in the area—picked me up along with my British brother-in-law. It was late, and already I preferred the cool, dry desert air to the humid jungle weather I had come from. We went to my dad’s accommodations to pass out, and the next day I saw my sister’s family!

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Me and Mom and Sis and boy

I had met her son/my nephew in 2014 but I never met my nieces until that day. They are ridiculously cute. And not only that, but we then returned to the airport to pick up my mom! A real family reunion of a trip. I doled out gifts of Chinese trinkets and we all caught up on life. It’s always nice to see one’s immediate family after years away.

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The dreaded Ministry of the Interior

Finally, on Day 3, I went to the dreaded Ministry of the Interior. My dad helped me out a lot. I brought my (American) passport and my printout of flight details, and that’s all I had. No Israeli documentation whatsoever. We took a number, waited, then were told to go somewhere else to take a number. It was early in the day and I can’t complain as it was rather fast for a government ministry. At last, a lady took us in her office. I had two choices revealed: I could pay to receive an Israeli passport and it would take a few days, or I could get an exit permission letter right then and there at no charge. I chose the latter. She highly recommended that I get the passport and I must eventually if I ever come to Israel again, seriously I really better not forget, but this would be allowed for the current trip.

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Model of ancient Jerusalem at Israel Museum

Now over with, I was free to enjoy the rest of my time! There were so many dinners with family. Playing with the kids. Taking photos. Eating delicious Middle Eastern food. Oh the hummus, the hummus!!! Lots of walking around the central district of Jerusalem, which is mostly an overly religious city, but touristy Jaffa Center at Ben-Yahuda street was tolerable. We went to malls, restaurants, and argued. It’s a family tradition. Arguing with my dad was the worst (we have a complex relationship), and there was a rather heavy disagreement with my sister as well over the settlements and alternative medicine. But don’t get me started, as this is supposed to be a mostly apolitical blog. The theological discussions were remarkably civil.

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Comics!

When asked about my favorite place on the trip, I have to admit it was going to the comic book store in the metropolitan city of Tel Aviv. I love checking out comic shops when going to a new place. The beach was also nice. The Israel Museum comes highly recommended; at the time they had an exhibition on ancient Egypt. They even have the Dead Sea Scrolls, an amazing sight to see (though they don’t let you take pictures there). I did enjoy the old city of Jerusalem, with the Western Wall and the Christian District, all those old churches and ancient structures.

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Beach

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Taking the Western Wall very seriously

One project I was working on while there was an interview series with my mother. She’s had a crazy life immigrating from one country to the next three times over, and I wanted to learn more about it. I treated the interview like journalism, recorded several hours of footage, and that’s all I’ll say about that until I create something to share next year.

The days went by too fast and before I knew it was over. After a funny episode of almost being late because I needed a new belt, I was driven back to the airport. I said my goodbyes, and the exit paper was no problem. All that was left was memories and souvenirs. I was headed back to that other controversial country of China, back to what had since become familiar to me, my life in Shenzhen. Not that life is stable here, the scenery is ever-changing no matter where…

Whether one likes it or not, family is where ya come from and they are important. I hope I’m on good terms with them. I’m not happy about everything when it comes to where I am from and my past, but then again perhaps I should get over those issues and appreciate all that’s been done for me. My mom and dad did their best, they are good people, and I thank my sister so much for helping me organize this trip. I wish her the best of luck with her new family, and I am sure she will do great.

That said, perhaps next time we should all visit in another country. Somewhere chill, I wouldn’t want to get in trouble over passport customs issues or anything.

 

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A rare photo of almost the entire family in one place. Note the food

 

Israeli Chinglish… Hebrlish?

So, I’ve been a bit quiet over the last week because I am currently traveling. In Israel. It’s not my favorite country, to be honest, but I have family to visit and hence here I am. Get into the controversies later.

Hope to have a longer post next week detailing some adventures and challenges. Be patient and stay tuned…

In the meantime, I’ve been looking for some Chinglish to share! (Or would that be Hebrlish?) It’s a very English-friendly country, westernized in all the good and bad ways, and about the only thing I saw was this sign at the beach mentioning “rockery.” Also, me.

 

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Does this count as Ivrit #Chinglish?

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In #TelAviv, meh

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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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