Sunday, March 26, 2006

Ray's Meme

I said I didn't do memes, but I was conversing with a good friend of mine, Unique, and I came up with these questions, and I thought, maybe I'll just put out a meme. You can either answer these questions in comments, or post them in your own blog and link it back here.

1. If someone is going to make a movie about you, which movie star/actress should play you?
Keanu Reeves or Russell Wong

2. What are your favorite movies and/or books?
Cinema Paradiso, The Kite Runner

3. Coffee or chocolate?
Chocolate -- all my coffee drinking involves chocolate (mocha, etc.)

4. Hot tub or beaches?
Both. But if I have to choose, beaches.

5. Do you like to take naps? Or do you sleep only a few hours a day?
I take lots of naps. I'm a professional napper.

6. Do you sleep in the nude?

7. What do you consider is your best achievement so far?
Hmmm... Probably overcoming obstacles to become a US citizen?

Monday, March 20, 2006


A reviewer said my novel indulged in "tiresome nostalgia." I kind of wonder, is "nostalgia" a dirty word? Is there something wrong with a story that is nostalgic? Do people find nostalgia tiresome?

I was just watching the rerelease DVD of Lady and the Tramp (I love that film). It was interesting to note that Walt Disney made the film when he was 50 years old, when after years of professional success (and living out in California), he became very nostalgic of his hometown, Marceline, MO. In many ways, Lady and the Tramp was his tribute to an America he idealized, and a place he had loved before.

One of my all-time favorite movies is Cinema Paradiso, yet another nostalgic, sweet romantic film about innocence lost. If you've never watched it, I highly recommend it.

One doesn't have to look too deep to see the nostalgia in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. And that, to me, is the true soul of that remarkable book.

The Pacific Between IS unapologetically nostalgic. I'm by no means middle-aged, but I have been away from my hometown for more than 20 years. I think about that place, about my childhood, and about the people I knew and lost over time. Perhaps it's foolish for me to hold on to these memories and emotions; but they define who I am.

Someone once said: The past is gone; focus on the present and the future and forget about the past. While I agree with making the best of our present and hoping for the future, I also think that our pasts make us who we are today, and at the end, we're left with nothing but our own experiences and memories, unique only to us. If we don't cherish and embrace the past, maybe even learn from it, then it seems to me that we're wasting our journeys. I agree that dwelling in the past is counterproductive and probably unhealthy. I very much enjoy my present and look forward to my future -- no question about that.

But I love my past, every bit of it: the good, the bad, the sad, the happy, the fun, the dreary, the ups, the downs, the highs, the lows. Even the regrets. I am who I am now because of who I was before. I believe that nostalgia -- the emotional attachment to the what, where, and especially the who of our pasts -- is key to the connection to our souls. A single morsel of memory and all the trimmings that go with it remind us that while knowledge might be grand, experiences are truly the food for our souls. These experiences, triumphs and regrets alike, are what make us human.

And I, for one, am proud to be nostalgic.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Different kinds of Friends

This is not a rant. This is not bitching. This is not complaining.

Just an observation.

There are different kinds of friends in my life. Better? Worse? Just different. And their differences are even more obvious as I announce my new achievement in publishing a novel after working on it for over four years. Here are the different types of friends:

1. Those who are totally enthusiastic about what goes on in my life, and want very much to be part of that excitement. They'll read my book, first thing in the morning.

2. Those who are happy for me, but they would care less what I do. They may or may not read my book. They may or may not tell me that they read it. They may or may not tell me if they like it. But they're happy for me, nonetheless.

3. Those who are jealous, but they wouldn't say it.

4. Those who are jealous, and they'd say so.

5. Those who wouldn't give a damn. They would never buy my book, never read it, and never think much of it. But they are there for me if I need them.

6. Those who may be #2, #3 or #5 but I'd never know because they never say a thing. The conversation is never brought up, or continued.

7. Those who ask for a free book -- because I am their friend! -- then never return my calls.

Don't worry, my friends. I am not keeping scores. Really. But you know who you are. And I do, too.



After more than 20 years, our family finally reunites and lives in, at least, the same country again.

My brother officially immigrated to the US this week. For a long time, he'd always wanted to come to the US but never been able to get a visa. Now, for the first time in over 20 years, he stepped foot on American soil and literally kissed the ground. Los Angeles is his new home now. The first thing he did was order French fries from McDonald's. Typical. (Disclaimer: yes, there are McDonald's in Hong Kong. But he ordered fries from a McDonald's in America! That's the kick.)

It's been a bittersweet journey, and an interesting odyssey. First, it was I who came to this country by myself. Then I brought my parents here, to retire. But for years now, our family remained separated -- first it was I who spent more than a decade by myself in the US. When my parents moved to California, it was my brother who was left behind. For over 20 years, my family scattered over two continents. And now, we're finally back together.

But it's not without sadness and regrets and a touch of nostalgia. The place we've called home, Hong Kong, is now only a place to visit, and my parents feel that they're already too old to make any future trips. America will be their place to rest in peace. For over 20 years, that beautiful city in the South China Sea continued to be our "home" because at least one member of the family still lived there. There was always a reason to return. Now, it's going be a place of our past, of memories. I was born and raised there, but to me, America is my home now, and has been for the past 22 years. For my brother, it's a new beginning, and a sad adieu to a place he's called home for over 40 years.

So, in a way, it's a strange thing that I was able to pay tribute to that fascinating city in my new book. It's fitting, and it's special to me.

I'm just glad that it doesn't take 20 hours and a passport to see my family again.