Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Living with white people: times are a-changing

So I've been networking in the city and it's been interesting:
-I usually talk about my background: about my goals, interests, experience...
-They offer their insight in their field, offer steps that could be taken...

I'm in Starbucks now and this is a unique sight:
There's this older white guy - he's 43, dressed conservatively (polo, khakis, leather shoes and jacket) and looks like an asshole. He seems tense and I think he's an asshole because as I squeezed by him to take a spot on the table, he didn't make an effort to help move his chair that had all his stuff on it.

I find out he's waiting for someone, when a pretty student asks if the chair is free.

And who shows up? This Asian (looks Chinese) young looking guy - donning a trendy grey sweater hoody, dark jeans and black coat. Is gay. Has one of those Asian-British hybrid accents. He has a PhD in Accounting and Finance.

This Asian guy starts talking about different areas in finance (private wealth management, real estate) - I glean that he worked at an investment bank. Pronounces finance like 'Fi-nish, Fi-ckle' and not 'FI-nal.' During the conversation he's checking his blackberry occasionally (reminding me of the alums I've met). And he asks about the white guy's background - his goals and interests.

Haha. Times really are a-changing.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Living with white people: a picture

The intersection of Broadway and 110th - I made brisk pace towards the subway, to catch the 1 train downtown and meet an alum I planned to 'meet for drinks.'

Streams of cars and people at the intersection - like valves the traffic lights and walking signs maintained streams of activity. Maybe race and closing signal for some.

My eyes took in the pattern but could only focus on one man:

Bent forward, his arms extended pushing and directing an assisting cart. He wasn't senile -he paced back and forth with frustration along the street corner of the intersection. His face was wrinkled - deepened with grimace. Looked Eastern European, maybe it was the dark pants and worn leather jacket (the cart carrying a leather messenger bag).

His dark, short frazzled hair expressed the weary on his face - yet its mess mirrored an energy underneath:

'please, man... please!'

A plea of a man to someone and no one - its timbre carried and stood out above the noise of the mass scene - it rang of weariness but not of complete despair. It had strength.

He pushed his cart a few paces this way, then that, bent forward and arms extended. His head raised, alert and searching. And then his arm raised to cry for a cab. And again. Like an exhausted man being beaten, standing and supporting himself, raising his arm to plea for reprieve: '...please!'

And there was his frustration - the flow of cars passed by again and again. And they ignored his calls.

Always bent forward arms extended, head parallel to the ground: he bowed to the cart - and the cart supported him in return.

Did he have a debilitating physical condition - for his body to be always bent forward? Or was it years of leaning forward, extending the assisting cart in front? And why the urgency of catching a cab? The despair in his voice suggested more than lateness - or was it simply the daily frustration of being denied a cab?

His powerful cry, 'please, man... please!' rings in my head like the cry of a world-weary soul.

Or maybe I'm reading too much into it. We all project our own thoughts and desires into our understanding of the world. Kind of like the pathetic fallacy. It helps makes sense of the chaos.

I never stopped - the walk signal flashed and I was released through the intersection - looking back occasionally - capturing the image of his frustration- beckoning desperately to one line of cars, then another. Pleading to each stream to give him respite from his pain.

And then I briskly stepped down the subway stairs, without another thought. I had to catch my train.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Upcoming posts

I've actually been annoyed at most things these past few days, including myself. So naturally I will soon post some critical commentaries of the world around me.

In the meantime, I figured I'd post a thought I had the other day:

There are a number of things that escape our conscious thoughts:

-Our perception of the world.
-Our own minds: i.e. Decision-making.
-Even our own desires.

Our conscious logical thoughts are mostly based upon observations of the physical world.

So this seems intuitive to me: for our conscious minds to have a complete understanding of the world, we need some metaphysical theory. Karma, God, Buddha, 'Good.'

To account for things that our conscious minds cannot detect, describe or decipher.

Monday, November 23, 2009

A fleeting Asian-White moment...

I was headed back on the Q train from downtown - transferring to the 1 train at Union Square. Coming back from the first round interview I just passed.

Two streams - bustling in the narrow pathway between the open train and the revolving gates. Distracted by Lil Wayne's mixtape flow I kept close, keeping pace. And then, I looked up - we made eye contact - and those bright blue eyes connected with mine.

My eyes did a quick double take - down, up: Somehow it was already there in my mind - the slight ruffled cloth scarf, positioned perfectly between warmth and appeal. A fitted leather jacket - buttons of definition, pockets of form. An muted v-neck that added tone. Washed out darkness of denim to define yet add to the slim build, completed with sneakers that suggested converse but not quite. Urban function in connected balance.

I saw in those bright blue eyes that lingered on me one thing: recognition.

My slim dark navy suit and its understated pinstripes - the light muted blue shirt with its suggestive lines: implied, not stated. The two associated, not connected. The slim tie, with its wide angled stripes of subtle outline - blue: light stripe over dark that somehow refused symmetrical line to the eye. Attracting focus to the whole. Corporate lifestyle blend of balance.

And in those 3 seconds of 2 pace rhythmic step - there was recognition as we passed.

Of equals, of awesome.

I wish him luck.

Guest Story: The California Roll Incident

So my good friend H decided to share an incident of his that took place freshman year at Brown University, with a girl in the good ol' freshman dorm, Keeney:

He didn't really - but reminded me and I thought it was funny so I'm posting it.

Girl: Hey, you look Asian, where you from?
H: Hong Kong.
Girl: Oh. So like you'd know how many minutes do I put this in the microwave?
*referring to a cooked California sushi roll from Josiah's (one of Brown's eateries - known for its 'selection of all-time American favorites')
H: Uh... You don't....and plus it's totally cooked...
Girl: Yeah right, just because I'm white doesn't mean I'm dumb! Hee hee!
H: Uh... Where are you from?
(H: Eye-Dah-HOe maybe?)
Girl: I'm from the OC! Oh-my-god, have you NOT seen the show?!
H: ....10 minutes on high should do it.

Quote H: 'Should I be surprised, in a school where IR is the second most popular major?'

A really nice California Roll:

The California roll has its origins in California in the 1970s. Realizing white people's (among others) aversion to raw fish, Ichiro Mashita decided to substitute avocado for tuna, realizing its oily texture was a perfect substitute. Mashita also made the roll inside out - traditionally rolls are wrapped with seaweed - as most thought it was gross seeing and eating outside seaweed. (Source: wikipedia.org of course).

And thus Mashita-san eased the way for millions of white people to eventually partake in the delightful Japanese cuisine of raw fish. Kudos, Mr. Mashita-san!

Oh, in light of the 'controversy' (was there one?) of Obama's bow to Japan's Emperor Akihito - I'm thinking at least he didn't get crowned. And it's really a moot point for him, considering he has the Emperor's ass under military control.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Living with white people: drinking habits

So, white people like to arbitrarily set times when they can and cannot drink.

It seems that Sunday is typically frowned upon as a time to drink alcohol.

So I went to the 24 hour grocery Saturday night at around 4:30 AM. I wanted some beer. So I could sleep better after being stimulated by a long island iced tea.

I was promptly refused by the nice looking cashier. Who calmly explained to me that 3AM to 8AM Sunday by law were hours during which people could not buy alcohol.

Needless to say the entire walk back I cussed in fury at puritans, arbitrary social guidelines, the dutch, liberals, conservatives and all others who prevented me from getting a goddamn beer.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Guide to interacting with white people as a non-black minority

Principle No.1 - Approaching race/ethnicity

Disclaimer for politically correct educated assholes: (Guide to interacting with white people for American born internationally raised Chinese people who don't have clear ethnic and racial categorical identity)

Now I'm assuming the natural reaction is:

'What? Wouldn't it be best to transcend the idea of race?'


'Yes! You should assert your own racial/ethnic identity and have the other acknowledge his/her whiteness.'

Both wrong. The first assumes everyone is the 'same.'

The second assumes we should all abide by some idealistic stupid world.

First off, let's establish what we're dealing with. We're in America - majority white.

(Please don't get started about the racial history of America, this is intended to be humorous for current generation minorities who have not experienced real prejudice).

Most white people grow up without realizing how white they are. (You think any one of the billion Chinese people in China reflect in the mirror and think, 'damn, I'm so Chinese...,' I don't think so.) For all intents and purposes when dealing with white people just accept we're in a white society.

The ideal approach with white people: helping them consciously acknowledge the difference in race and culture. It's tricky - go too far like a crazy liberal and everyone is uncomfortable. Too little and you get comments like, 'you're not really Asian...'

The trick: take advantage of a stereotype of your culture and have fun with it:

(examples below):
Asian: 'Yea I had a cute puppy for dinner the other day...' Talk about General Tso's historical importance. This guy Ting Ting Tong that you know.
Indian: 'I have a conglomerate of Kwiki-Marts. Seriously, 'thank you come again,' was like 15% increase to my billion dollar Kwiki Empire.'
Hispanic: 'I'm actually Mexican.'

Okay I'm actually having trouble thinking of more. But using stereotypes for humour accomplishes several key things in your interaction with white people:

-White people now have an easy route to acknowledge the racial difference. The fact that you laugh about it shows you don't give a shit about stereotypes.
-You have an opportunity to discern the level of racial awareness of the white person:

Stupid white person:
-Thinks you're serious: you are now a representative of your respective race/culture
-Joins in (key: with malice): pretend you're actually white. fuck this asshole.

Smart white person:
-Thinks it's funny: usually means white person is not as uptight and comfortable acknowledging difference
-Joins in (key:friendly + actually funny): demonstrates racial awareness. Higher level: makes fun of his/her own whiteness

And there you have it. The key to interacting with all the white people around is the skill of identifying and discerning which white people are cool.

Enjoy interacting with your next white fellow!

Living with Dominicans

So I just moved to NYC. After bumming around Providence for the past 5 months it's time to make a serious attempt to get a trading job in finance.

I live with 2 Dominicans on the Upper West Side near Columbia (no, not the fancy apartments visually associated with the area - I'm on Amsterdam Ave).

(M) One is a disciplinary dean at public high school, is 41 and recently ended a 10-year relationship 6 months ago. He's sociable and has that serious-passionate Latino thing going on.

(A) The other is a freelance technician, is 31 and focused on audio visual production. He's more of a quiet laid back sort of guy.

M is having money problems. More specifically, a cash flow issue at the moment.

Overdraft and credit card bill. Borrowed 200$ from me (for a week - for date that seemed important to him). Owed $700 that he is trying to get back. Cable and internet was cut for day. No savings aside aside from a 401k retirement fund and college fund for his two kids he pays child support for. A is 2 months behind rent. Had $15,000 in savings that was paid to a lawyer that lost a court case over a fire in the apartment last year.

So I stand there in the kitchen, watching him chain-smoke his Marlboro Lights as he then talks about how he's still not moved on from the relationship- that he still can't stop comparing, that he has to explain he's still recovering emotionally. That women can hide better, are better liars.

'Us men? We can't hold it in bro. It shows on our face.'


'so I had to take out money from the school fund to pay for the cable, but it's just gonna come out of my next paycheck. And I got a huge credit card bill, and this fucking guy... and A is also 2 months behind. It's just gonna repeat again in a month man. Maybe I should stop going out for a year, save up some money. But I have needs man, - I need shoes, clothes- I can't just cut them out.'

As I stand there, I can't help but think: the extremities of American life. I'm 22 and broke already in the this city, dreading the moment when I have to ask my Dad for some help. But I day-dream of the high paying finance job I'll (hopefully) have, and the business I'll start in my career. It's only up for me.

For M? He's already the dean of a high school - what's next, principal? He has a decent salary but it can't possibly go up more. No investments. Lives paycheck to paycheck from work. His expenses aren't dropping anytime soon and yes, he does have needs. He's 41 but youthful and single. He's a decent guy and doesn't spend irresponsibly. He has no easy foreseeable solution out of this.


Lesson 1 of American life:

-Have supporting assets by 30.