what a crappy car taught me about crappy people

Not mine, but just like it.

Not mine, but just like it.

When I was in college, my mom bought me a car. It was not a fancy car, it was meant to be my college commuter vehicle. It was a 2001 Daewoo Lanos, a car that doesn’t even exist anymore. There weren’t that many of them anyway. When I would see other Daewoo owners, I would nod or try to make eye contact with the driver like we were in some solidarity. We were fighting a good cause, in a lower ranked Illuminati. Instead of meeting in mansions, we got together at Target and said, “So what’s on sale today?”

The Daewoo is far from fancy. Fancy is on the top of Mt. Everest and the Daewoo is in the darkest depths of the Marianas Trench. It was really just a metal shell with a engine a little bit stronger than if I had shoved my feet through the floor of the car to power it the way Fred Flinstone moves through the town of Bedrock. It’s a car no one has ever heard about unless you’ve also purchased a Korean made microwave and thought, “Oh they make cars, too?” or watched Bobby Lee on Mad TV yelling at hot women walking by: “DAE WOOOOO!”

When I was hit in a major car accident back in 2010 and totaled my husband’s Nissan Altima, we decided to just go with one car. It was inconvenient at times, but mostly manageable.

What I learned about having a crappy car is that people can be utterly shitty about it. The worst. There’s something about cars that surface the most judgment, the most racial, socio-economic biases people hold and usually keep quiet until they’re in the passenger seat and I have to explain that you have to crank the window’s lever to lower it. You have to turn a knob to adjust the seat. But there’s aircon, or A/C as people here in the U-S-A call it, and guess what, YOU ARE IN MY CAR, NOT ON A CARIBOU SO SHUT IT.

I learned that a lot of people equate a car with someone’s worth. You are a bad person because you drive this car. You are a good person because you drive that car. You are a murderer because you drive a windowless van that says MURDER on the side. Well that one is true.

One thing I love about comedians and the circle of comedians I am very happy to call friends is that no one ever said shitty things to me about my car. I had a car and they weren’t on a bus. And I would drive them to shows and we would tell jokes and talk about the jokes on the ride home, not what part of Korea was this car built? North Korea? Is that why the stereo only plays, “TO OUR FEARLESS LEADER!” on repeat.

Even though my car wasn’t fancy, it was cheap to fill up. When I first bought it, it cost only $15 to fill up the gas tank. OH HOW I MISS YOU 2003 GAS PRICES. I could park it anywhere. I could parallel park it into tiny spaces that even regular sized sedans had to pass on. And it was glorious. I wanted a parade every time I did, fist-pumping World Cup cheer for me, excellent wrangler of a small Asian car.

Eventually the car started having some problems, like the check engine light staying on despite doing everything to fix it. One shop mentioned something like a broken head gasket which google pretty much said, “GOODBYE FOREVER.”

We finally did buy a new to us car, using the Daewoo as a down-payment. We have a 2012 Nissan Altima. It’s the nicest car we’ve ever owned. It drives smoothly, revs ups when we need it to and I don’t have to always drive on the far right side of the road in case it breaks down and I need to pull over.

It’s been an incredibly sweet upgrade for us, but the memory of our other car still remains. When Mike brought the kids over to daycare, another dad said to him, “What happened to the ghettomobile?” which I of course told Mike, would he go in and say that in front of the daycare teachers, two African-American women? No he wouldn’t but he could spout off some stupid joke while drives a very expensive car that rhymes with BUMMER.

What I want my kids to know is just because someone drives a nice car, it doesn’t mean she’s a good person. Assholes can be behind the wheel of every car, including the one that drives you around.

California Love

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Last week, I went to Los Angeles for the very first time to perform comedy. I’ve only been to LA twice and both times were in the airport. My mom said she and my dad took me there when I was really young, but somehow I doubt it. I could have forgotten it or she could have just assumed I was alive in 1978 when she and my dad were tourists in Hollywood (I wasn’t alive yet, mom!).

Jenny Yang had invited me to LA to stay with her for a weekend and perform with Dis/orient/ed Comedy, the only mostly female Asian-American national standup touring showcase, which I’ve performed with three times before.  So at the prospect of flying to the biggest city on the west coast with the funniest lady on the west coast (seriously, have you seen this Buzzfeed video?) my answer was a weeping, body shaking yes.

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The first night, we joined some other bloggers, writers and creative folk at a Korean BBQ called Madang621. So meaty!

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Phil Yu of Angry Asian Man watches as I double-fist soju and beer (it was a posed shot MOM!).

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The show was held in the historic David Hwang Theater in Little Tokyo.

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I got my fake eyelashes on and my sparrow face set.

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It felt amazing to perform in a theater like that, in a new city with people who haven’t heard my jokes, with comedians who gave the audience a show.  It’s inspiring to share a stage with such unique talent.  It also makes me feel like I should work harder, be funnier, write more, and then maybe work out more so I don’t look like someone stuck a tube into my mouth and inflated me.  To goals!

Jenny was the kindest, nicest host who even if she tired of how many preconceived notions I have about LA, she didn’t say anything.  I spent a lot of time asking, “Is this Hollywood?” “Is this where they filmed The Hills?”  “Is this where they filmed Pretty Woman?”  She was so patient with my dumb touristy questions, gathered from a life of watching TV.

We talked a lot about comedy, about how our lives as females, minorities, really good daughters and students, have all shaped what goes into our jokes.  I told her about my theory: there’s a window of time in your life, from childhood to late teens, when you have to experience something of great emotional charge or weight.  Whatever that is.  From the trauma, loss or feeling different from other girls because you’re watching Comedy Central and not working on your Hello Kitty collection.  But it’s that heavy, dark period that makes us creative because we once we see the world differently, our filters are forever changed.  But for those people who skated through life, whose windows shut on them and their parents paid for their Nordstrom bills and all of their opinions deal with which expensive brand of jeans are the best, they’re nice at organizing a brunch or telling me what texturing creme to use, or maybe they can quote something funny they watched on Netflix, but they’re not comedians. Not that everyone has to suffer to become something more than a mouth-breather, but IT HELPS.  It’s what I’ve seen in comics: we all felt different at a young age and that uneasiness carries through our lives, but makes us able to point out the humor.  We don’t wallow, we make it funny.  Not everyone is so lucky.

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Plus, she has great taste in music.

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I was so amazed at how everyone was slim and beautiful despite the veritable BOUNTY of food.  So much food!  Everyone has a recommendation for cuisine, secret cuisine, hip cuisine, etc. etc. etc.  I know which 7-11 doesn’t judge me for buying slurpees for my kids and a Budlight Strawberrita tall-boy for me.

The highlight of my food experience was the Strawberry Fantasy Toast box at Oh My Pan.  It’s a toast box filled with even more toast.  The box is the perfect shape for this majesty, and also a perfect shape to stuff my feelings into and then promptly eat them.  When the server brought it out, I gasped.  He said he could cut it for us and asked if we wanted to take pictures first.  YES TO ALL THE PICTURES!

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HOT STEAMY BUTTERY CREAMY CARB ACTION!

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I’ve been to California three times in the last two years and each time, I have loved it.  It could be because I’m just there as a tourist and I don’t have to deal with the trappings every city has: the traffic, prices, everyone sexier and younger than I am.  But I loved the sun, the palm trees, the bright sky that said, “Girl, it’s too hot for jeans.”  I loved how people seemed to be doing things, working on things, being creative and producing art and comedy and music and making this world more entertaining.

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Mike and the boys picked me up at the airport Sunday night.  I sneaked up on Nathan and TJ in the baggage claim and TJ yelled and leapt into my arms. “MOMMY! YOU’RE BACK!”  And as TJ hugged me tightly, a woman nearby smiled and said, “That’s the sweetest thing.”

And Mike answered, “Yeah, she’s been gone since Friday.”

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It felt nice to be home, with people who laugh at my jokes, make some of their own and always think their mother is a superstar.

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