Resistance Art: Immigrants Getting the Job Done

 

*The mixtape video we all needed. It’s a hard time right now, can’t understate that. Philando Castile, the healthcare bill, the deportations, targeting of Muslims during Ramadan, the environment destruction, the list is so long it’s almost paralyzing. It seems like the politics posts on Facebook at least in my filter bubble have waned a bit, bc it’s like, we know it’s not gonna get better anytime soon, but I know that there are so many broken hearts with a dose of toxic anger all the same from all the offline conversations.

But one thing I’ve noticed though in NYC, since the election, it seems like immigrants have been kinder to each other. Going to stores, Lyft/Uber drivers, walking in these streets, going to work, there is a strange gentleness to each other that I don’t think was quite there before. We don’t speak the same languages, we don’t share the same skin colors or cultures, we don’t really even have the same struggles (I’m totally cognizant of the fact I’m a light-skinned Asian whose is a natural born American citizen with a White collar job and what that gets me – I walked through customs in under 3 minutes with Global Entry yesterday – which gives me a responsibility to do a damn thing), but it seems we’re in this reality where we need each other’s kindness because of Trumplandia and a lot of the White Liberals who quite frankly seem to be want to be there for their racist cousins than for us, I get that tribalism, but we’re responding in kind with our kindness to each other in response to what is effectively state-sanctioned violence.

For some of you out there, I know you don’t feel this, but feel me for a minute when I say this cruelty out here is undeserved, and it’s real, and if you’re not fighting it, you’re complicit. Let’s get on with it. Save your kindness for those who deserve it and need it. We’re America’s ghostriders, and the former colonized in Europe built those empires. The credit is only borrowed. We’re going to cash those checks, sooner or later, one way or another.

*One thing I do want to call out some friends pointed out on FB – the misogyny in the lyrics and in hip hop in general, :(. Also, let’s not forget in the American context, most Black Americans weren’t immigrants and were forced to build the country for free and Native Americans driven off on the land that was theirs.

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Shout out to Lali Restaurant

Crosspost here from ViewingNYC.

To add: I really appreciate a place like this since it can feel like these places, the honest neighborhood eats, the simple diners, and delis, the holes-in-the-wall with good food at a fair price and character are disappearing in Manhattan and many parts of NYC, pushed out by ever skyrocketing retail rents and bougie tastes. Lali’s is not far from the Times Square drag in Hell’s Kitchen if you have visitors who really want something that is no frills local.   

I can only describe eating at Lali Restaurant like eating home-cooking at an auntie’s house, if I had an auntie who is a Dominican lady named Lali. The restaurant calls back to what feels like a different time. The counters have an old-school diner feel, regulars seem to know each other, and comfort food is what’s on the menu.

Lali and her friendly crew prepare selected dishes depending on the day of week. Most of the clientele is Spanish-speaking along with other locals who are frequent customers (myself included). Seating is mostly counter space and a few small tables in the back that seat two or three…. read more

What to Order at Din Tai Fung

Din Tai Fung is not a place that needs much introduction, especially in the Taiwanese food world. What is new is its expansion of locations outside of Asia. Started in 1948, Ding Tai Fung gained its fame with perfecting Shanghai Dumplings or xiaolongbao, excellent customer service, and extraordinary consistency.

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This restaurant empire stands out from other establishments for making simple Taiwanese staples exceptional. It’s not one of those fancy seafood banquet places but rather has perfected the pedestrian with the best of ingredients, preparation, and hospitality.

What I’m writing about today is what to order other than xiaolongbao – though I’ll say if you have enough diners/appetites with you – get both the pork and the pork with crab.

First, the Hot and Sour soup here is finely made, just look at how delicately every ingredient in this soup has been chopped and prepared. Normally, hot and sour soup can be kind of throwaway dish, but this is one of the best items here:

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The Seaweed & Beancurd in a Vinegar Dressing appetizer are another must get item here, a mix of fresh bean curd, seaweed, and sprouts are meant to be a cold dish complement the meal (does it real well).

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Another item that I love to get is the Pork Chop. This is ubiquitous Taiwanese staple but done way more upmarket here, your equivalent of getting a burger at a fancy restaurant.

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The Noodles with Spicy Sauce, again are simple and delectable prepared with a sesame sauce that would leave you feeling greasy and MSG bloated at other places.

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The Shrimp & Pork Wontons with Spicy Sauce has a version in many Chinese provinces, this is the Taiwanese Din Tai Fung version that does not disappointment, with the complex flavor of many aromatics in its preparation.

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Dessert is an underrated part of Din Tai Fung, but is probably my favorite part of the meal.

I love love love the Taro xiaolongbao, featuring fresh taro grounded into a sweet paste steamed in the same shell used to make the savory dumplings. I took a Chilean friend here and she called them “Taro dumplings from Heaven.” If you love taro like me, you can’t live without these. It’s probably the most Taiwanese-influenced item on the menu.

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Two other desserts I’d get: 1) The Red Bean Rice Cake is a fluffy steamed bread stuffed with red bean that is not too sweet. A lot of non-Asians tend to not like red bean, but it’s because they’ve eaten high fructose corn syrup loaded pre-packaged stuff rather than the real deal like here. 2) The Eight Treasures rice is a true classic of Chinese cooking, a sticky rice prepared with with raisins, dates, red bean, longan, and other dried fruit and nets. This is dish typically eaten during Lunar New Year and other special occasions done masterfully here:

That’s the ideal Din Tai Fung meal for me.

For another look at Din Tai Fung more from a cultural lens similar to mine, check out Eddie Huang’s introduction on his Viceworld show:

Couple more pics of the Din Tai Fung location at the Santa Anita Westfield in Arcadia CA:

 

 

Love for Document Coffee Bar in Los Angeles

Document Coffee Bar signature "Document Cold Brew" in Ktown. Real good.

A post shared by Bessie Chu (@bessie626) on

Document Coffee Bar is one of my favorite coffee shops in Los Angeles (my hometown) in Koreatown, one of my favorite neighborhoods to eat, work, drink, and party in.

I love the Cold Brew here. It has a touch of Maple Syrup that enhances the flavor of the Cold Brew rather than overpowering it with that gross sugary flavor. The Hojicha Latte is also excellent, the flavor of the tea and cooked rice goes great as an ice latte.

It was one of my favorite study spots (good wi-fi) and an actual parking big enough to park by yourself in that is free much of the day makes this a rarity in Ktown. I still ask friends to meet me up here on visits back home. The store has some hipster vibes but definitely keeps to its Koreatown character, a place serving the neighborhood with excellent drinks, not some interloper. I wish there were more places like this in NYC.

 

 

Back in Taiwan

TBH part of me lowkey wants to stay in Taiwan and not go home to NYC, back to America, and back to the West. Over the last few days, it sank in how truly nightmarish it has been to live with so much hatred in the relative absence of it.

Taiwan is far from perfect and not free of divisions, but right now, like Gil Scott-Heron sang, home is where the hatred is. It hurts to live with so much constant unease and anger. We’re in for a long fight. Recoiling in horror has always been a constant for People of Color, but the collective fear level is amped even more now.

In a weird way, I can kind of see the false seductiveness of maybe what a lot of conservatives feel. It’s incredible to not feel your race, to walk amongst your own kind. There is something to be said about feeling your blood and history being connected to everyone and everything around you in a way that makes sense. To be connected to the land and see yourself in generations forwards and backwards. It’s beautiful. I can see the desire to not want to deal with anything more complicated than that. There are plenty of other folks like me here “back from” the US, Canada, Australia, and other such places here working, running bar & burger shops, living corporate, etc speaking funny versions of Chinese and Taiwanese, a simultaneously revered, reviled, and recognizable social category. It still feels like home though, especially in these sour times. The thing that’s mutually missed is Mexican food. I feel that draw and temptation as deeply as anyone else – that China problem is worth the risk. Maybe someday I’ll give into it.

In a way, Taiwan is a nation of leavers like Ireland. People coming and going. I couldn’t help but see a lot of what I already knew when I was there a few weeks ago, both in the sense that being American is to immediately recognize so much of what we know as American culture actually comes from Ireland, but also in the sense of being part of a people from a much hotter but also emerald-colored island with a history of similar struggles and with an equally if not more fanatically devoted diaspora.

Unlike in the West, your bloodline in this part of the world is inescapable. The Irish and other Europeans don’t seem to consider people who share their blood and distant heritage as brethren, but it doesn’t function that way in a lot of Asia, for better or worse. I get undeserved brownie points for being a natural born American that can read and speak the language and know how to code switch into the culture, which I really only know because really I am a fat woman who likes being able to eat everything. Other Asian Americans get seen with scorn for “forgetting who they really are.” Both of these are simplistic narratives that don’t fit the world we live in.

I’m an unabashed globalist. Maybe I’m a condescending liberal elitist. A loudmouth hip hop head in New York who holds it down for the California Republic but a polite and loyal Taiwanese-American when I’m back on the island. Theresa May would probably call me a Citizen of Nowhere and I’m truly part of what the Make America Great Again crowd hates. And I hate them too, no doubt. At a most basic, it’s just self-defense against people who condone multiple levers of violence.

But what’s obvious to me as a perpetual outsider, code switcher, and lucky (privileged) enough to move through borders and cultures is that problems we might think are singular are global and interconnected better or worse that can’t be solved alone. Climate change, racism, ethnic strife, gender inequality, the failure of global markets to provide prosperity and their ability to accelerate inequality, the darksides of technological transformation – can’t be solved only locally though that has to be where it starts.

As John Donne once said, No man is an island, entire of itself. Any man’s death diminishes me. Because I am involved in mankind. Therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.

I believe in liberalism: I believe in liberty, equality, social justice, free press, free markets (the Adam Smith definition), freedom of religion, minority rights, feminism, etc. Facts are real. There’s an America and a rest of the world worth fighting for, and I’ll be ready to re-join The Resistance when I’m back.

100 Days of Resistance Art Day Five: What to Tell The Children

What to Tell the Children

tell them that this is the great awakening
tell them that we humans have made some huge mistakes
and that's how we now find ourselves in this tenuous place
teach them that hate is the poison
teach them that love is the remedy
that is it better to be readied for what comes next
even if the revelation is painful
tell them that this is the paradigm shift, that the old is collapsing in on itself
that this death rattle is simply a temper tantrum, the last gasp of a dying Goliath
remind them of how they get wild when they are most tired and then pass out
that this is what it's about
that this is what is happening to a decrepit and ineffective empire
tell them that everything is not OK
and knowing that, is OK
tell them that pretending that what is unacceptable is fine
is what got us to this sick and dysfunctional spot on the time line
apologize for any prior attempts to teach them denial
tell them you were blinded by desire for comfortable numbness
express that you had the best of intentions
that you were working within a broken system
where few benefited at the expense of many
that you laid low, kept to the status quo, obediently played your role
but those days are over because now you know better
tell them that they have no responsibility to follow someone blindly
based solely on a title
teach them to practice discernment
tell them authority and respect must be earned, and are not inherently deserved
teach them that there are good people and bad people
from every background, ethnicity and belief system
that they must align themselves with kindness
that there is no more room for divisiveness
you tell them that just because something is legal that doesn't mean it's right
you tell them to stand up, and fight
remind them of all the lawful atrocities
committed in the sick and twisted history of this violent country
that Rosa Parks righteously broke a law, and the world took notice
that Harriet Tubman is our modern day Moses
that women would not be allowed to vote,
and no one would have proposed another notion,
if the blessed rebels hadn't taken a stand
tell them love will win this war
but only if we remember that love is not just one unending cuddle puddle
but fierce, as a mother bear protecting her cubs
tell them that although this existence is damaged beyond repair,
they must not despair. there is possibility.
and we will willingly and willfully open ourselves to new ways of being
because the old way is not working, has never worked
and the world deserves better, and we're worth it
tell them they are not free while another suffers under enslavement
teach them that we are all limbs on one body
and we cannot chop off our own arm without deep suffering
teach them humility, but also to relearn to trust their intuition
and beg their forgiveness for unintentionally misleading them previously
tell them their gifts are useful
tell them they are beautiful
tell them THEY ARE THE TRUTH

100 Days of Resistance Art Day Four: Autopsy

Poetry for reflecting today. I’m traveling to Taiwan tonight, my motherland, to see family and friends. I am fortunate for now for relatively unencumbered freedom of movement, something my Brown friends don’t have the privilege of doing. Something to ponder on and think of how you can weaponize your privilege in the struggle.

Autopsy

Last night, I dreamed that my passport bled.
I dreamed that my passport was a tombstone
For our United States, recently dead.
I dreamed that my passport was made of bone—

That it was a canoe carved out of stone.
“But I can’t swim,” I said. “I will drown
If I can’t make the shore. I’ll die alone
In the salt. No, my body will be found

With millions of bodies, all of them brown.”
I dreamed that my passport was a book of prayers,
Unanswered by the gods, but written down
By fact checkers in suits. “There are some errors

In your papers,” they said. Then took me downstairs
To a room with fingernails on the floor.
I dreamed that my passport was my keyware,
But soldiers had set fire to the doors,

To all doors—a conflagration of doors.
I dreamed that my passport was my priest:
“Sherman, will you battle the carnivores
Or will you turn and abandon the weak?

Will you be shelter? Or will you concede?”
Last night, I dreamed that my passport was alive
When it entered the ICU. It breathed, it breathed,
Then it sighed and closed its eyes. It did not survive.

©2017, Sherman Alexie