It is so inspiring and refreshing to see a class full of students not afraid of sharing their feelings, and unapologetic about the idiosyncrasies that make them themselves. Perhaps, one of the reasons why I was quiet pretty much throughout the length of this course was that I am not used to such a code of pedagogy. After staying so many years away from home, and predominantly living in communities outside of my own, I still am apprehensive about being too open about my feelings. However, through this class, I have realized how liberating it could be to shed a little bit of that shyness and just attend to the details that I possess in my identity.
The strongest critique against my writing has always been the lack of immediacy, and the “exorbitance” of big and unnecessary words. I have learned that sometimes simple words can have the biggest impact, and you should never be afraid of expressing yourself. I think a part of self-expression is exploring what kind of tone and genre you can write in. I used to be of the opinion that humor is a prerogative of a very elite few, but I have discovered that I can be funny too, through my writing.
Well, perhaps counter-intuitively, I have chosen for my final project an undertaking where the focus is, on the surface, outside of me. However, I think, at the same time the things that I have learned through this task have made some impact on me. This audio essay of mine is a collage without any coherent narrative supporting it; leaving it totally up to the readers to conceive of the “message.” The songs in the essay are supposed to represent and juxtapose the expectations that we have of certain things and their actual status. I have consciously abstained myself from giving it a particular narrator because I am still on my path to discovery and what exactly that place, of which the audio is about, is to me? I feel like every time I go there, I discover new things about the place. But more than the place itself, it is the people who choose to come here on weekends, especially Tibetans. I see both the consolidation and shattering of my stereotypes and perhaps discover the range within which one can be “Tibetan.”
I hope my readers won’t feel disoriented by the lack of any coherent order to the audio essay and even if you did, you can always ask me, or talk over a cup of coffee. And if the latter ever happens at a Starbucks, please call me Jason.
Little Irish Shangrila: Right Above the Door
Irish Bars have these unique features that it is hard to miss if you are looking for one. I know there are some Irish Bars that would just announce its type before you even enter: “IRISH PUB,” it would read outside, on its illustrated and enhanced lintel. And others, that if you tried reading out loud would sound just like Sandarin—go on, try it sometimes. And as much as Manhattan prides upon its night life scene, I think Queens have—there is an “s” for God’s sake–one of the best Irish pubs in the world. No sir, I haven’t been to every single Irish Pubs in every corner of this world but I am sure it is true. And you know what’s truer than that? The Irish bar at Woodside is probably the best. Well, I am entitled to my biases. If you are not convinced, then listen to the highly credible accounts of the yelpers:
It is a cool place and we like to go there.
A lot of Tibetans and sometimes, they get drunk and want to fight.
The place was very ethnically diverse, but true indeed, there were lots of Tibetans. Noticeably, one of the Tibetan women was not a woman. The poor dude that danced with that particular person had not gotten the memo…he kept saying “that chick is tall…” as he ordered more drinks
It is so infamous that even Irish people in Ireland, yes Ireland, have misgivings about this place:
I have no doubt that Sean Og’s is horrifying on weekend nights unless you’re the kind of person who enjoys copulating with J1 Visa holders after hours of Smirnoff Ice fueled dancing. This aspect of the bar is so infamous, that co-workers in my company’s Dublin office warned me of it.
I didn’t even know they served food, but the place was usually packed with drunks who were desperate and coming on to any woman they could get to make eye contact.
Or some surprises like this, who does she think she is? Jane Austen? Or a surrealist?
Sean Ogs seems amazing at first. Dancing on the weekends, cheap drinks, fun decor, stumbling distance from other bars. The longer you go here, though, the more you will realize that this is a date-raper’s paradise.
There’s always what I call a “creeper curtain” around the dance floor that you have to breech in order to get some space to dance.
Then there’s the weekend. Oh boy…it’s like a complete 180.
When it’s on douche mode it’s a bit weird but they actually have DJs and dancing on certain nights and a diverse crowd and good drinks.
This place is the real deal- I’m talking about the 3 B’s…Beers, Burgers and Babes. This part of Woodside is the Vegas of NYC
And some real critics:
Conclusion: I don’t care that you have very cute Halloween decorations and one of the only dance floors in Woodside Sean Og’s – you attract bad people, and there are better neighborhood bars that deserve my business.
If your a girl you might get a bit too much unnecessary attention from the weekend crowd since it’s really a sausage fest. But if you go with friends it can be very fun because of the vibe of the place. If your a guy don’t expect to pick up girls there, because you have about 5000 other guys to compete with.
By now I am sure this Irish bar is described by these key words: creeper, Tibetan, date-raper’s heaven, Tibetan, debauchery, and some more Tibetans. Yes, this place entertains a lot of Tibetans. During weekends, for those uninitiated, if you are not a Tibetan, then it would be safest if you just stuck to the bar stool and get the idea of hoping on to the dance floor out of your mind. You may or may not have it, but the dance floor is the yellow fever incarnate: a bunch of yellow people dancing feverishly.
You will see a lot of desperate middle-aged Tibetans, whom we call uncles and aunties. I actually have a friend whose stories of one-night-stands with aunties are inexhaustible. These uncles and aunties are the reasons that the elders of the household are advising their younger ones to avoid visiting such a place.
“Didn’t you know that aunties and uncles in that place have AIDS?”
“You going to Irish Bar, beware of uncles and aunties.”
“Are you a perve? Why else would you go to that place?”
“You can go New York, but don’t you dare so much as take a step into that God Forsaken Irish Bar.”
I am not sure if Irish bars have any reputation, if they did, I think among Tibetans, they have lost it all. It is just in the name; Irish Bars would have saved its face if whoever made Sean Og’s popular among Tibetans, actually addressed the bar as “Sean Og’s.” Now it is not just this particular bar that is shunned. I remember walking with my elder relatives and at the sound of the name Irish, they would grimace and bicker.
As empty as a graduate student’s bank account (how’s that for originality?)
As weak as a new born calf
Gathered together like Starlings
as rough as sandpaper
Trembling like a washer
praying like hoarding
bouncing like Mitt Romney’s policy?
smiling like squinting
Heart of a mammoth
Mountains of crap
War is a mill
The Ocean is the bed
The moon is lamenting
The house is a lagoon
My love is a lock
Writing is the Universe
I walk the vast stretch of the land: pavements as rough as sandpaper, air too thin to feel, and the scope far too blurry to bring into focus. Everything seems elusive; my breath blends with the silence of what surrounds me. Every new and different shape has to fight my pessimism to come into reality. Reality–huh! I whisper to myself, with every snaps of scarce optimism that glimpses by, “the moon is lamenting on the other side.” That moon is the shelter waiting to be felt is the only solace that my endless steps, exploring void horizons, couldn’t salvage. If you see me, don’t be fooled, I am onlysquinting like smiling; the arch of my brows have nothing in common to the line of my lips. If you hear me, don’t be startled, because that’s my passive pulse. The heart of the mammoth has still the magnanimity, but between stillness and eternity, it is bound to halt.
20 Acts in 60 Minutes
My favorites were:
1) Act 3: It’s Commerce that Brings Us Together
2) Act 13: More Lies
3) Act 19: Hard Life at the Top.
“Well, we lost it. So you can quit advertising it.” This concluding remark in Act 3 is funny and honest at the same time. That’s probably why I chose the rest of the acts in my list– a strange blend of innocence and humor, juxtaposing each other and giving these stories more dimensions and thus making them satisfactory. In this particular act, we get a glimpse of an American life which is hard to come by for those who live in the city and treat technology as their second nature. There is humor in their list of objects they are trying to sell and the unapologetic tone with which they announce them.
“Ohh, it’s mine; I keep change in that.” Act 13 is probably the funniest out of the bunch. Even though the college kids in this act are lying, there is this innocence about them that they are even embarrassed to admit to eating half a grapefruit and a can of black beans that they decided to erase any evidence of them ever existing by packing the other half of the grapefruit and the empty can in their bag. And the event that unfolds thereafter is just one of the few moments in life where life seems to be imitating a movie.
Whereas the very last act, although sans any laughter and guffaws, screams humor in the form of sobriety. You can’t help but laugh at the young cadet’s gaffes on their very first day at West Point. One is not sure whether to pay heed to the morbid histories, that the narrator relays, of the young cadets or the comedic scene of the scene at hand. “Is your last name Doe?”
When you listen to TAL, most of the time you like a story without knowing exactly why. I think the same is here as I try to choose the ones that I like. But I usually tend to like stories which are told live, rather than the ones which sound more like a monologue. Usually, I don’t look for particular themes or genre when I listen to TAL, but I do prefer to listen to stories that are personal, and tend to avoid those which sound like a reportage. However, the stories that I have listed above have this feel of remoteness– something that you yearn for when you live in a city.
Fat and Salt
“OMG, this salad is amazing!”
“I know, right?”
“It has bacon, apple slices, candied walnut, and arugula in it.”
I didn’t mention the cheese because I wasn’t sure between feta and blue, but made sure I said “arugula” loud and clear, and at the very end: actually I might have brought “arugula” up a few times more in our conversation that night. “Candied walnut” was something I had heard Dawa, the friend I was having the dinner with, speak of and had shamelessly incorporated into my supposed gastronomic vocabulary. I am not a salad person, and definitely do not consider myself a foodie, but when I am eating at a restaurant with a dimmed-out décor and people swanking over a glass of red wine, I try my best to sound intelligent and almost scream out that my life is as interesting as anybody else’s in that room—just loud enough to make the next table pause and listen to what I have to say.
Then the nice white lady comes over at our table with her transcending smile camouflaging with the house’s ambience and asks in a soft squeaky voice, “Are you finding everything okay?” To uphold the unspoken code of civility, we would go all smiles and gooey and exclaim at the excellence, in every aspect, of the experience, as if we were more cautious of not pissing her off than the other way round. We all revel in this moment of sweetness that would make me cringe otherwise and elsewhere—when I am not crunching on those candied walnuts or holding a wine glass by its stem.
As soon as she turns around to attend another table, we would arch our lips in approval and agree,
“Service here is amazing. They really know their stuff.”
We would raise our eye brows and nod our heads in unison to consolidate our belief, and then move on with our conversation which, if spoken at home, would attract some weird stares.
“Sometimes I think I prefer the texture of the food over taste.”
“Mmmm, interesting, never thought of food that way. I always thought the texture complemented the taste. It’s interesting that you think they are two separable qualities. But I do know that I am starting to like foods which offer variety of texture.”
“OMG, Jamyang, we are so similar. After all, we are fellow Sagittarians.”
You remember the part about cringing? So cringe I did, when I was brushing my teeth the next morning and thought through all the things we had talked about the previous night at the restaurant—winning a Pulitzer, the meaning of life, the self-immolations in Tibet, the indispensability of mystery in life for creativity, working for the NPR, how disappointed we were of Ira for that Retraction episode, the value of family and other crap that made up our night, slightly enhanced by our slightly inebriated consciousness.
Thinking Dawa must be feeling the same or at least she would realize that after my telling, I texted her:
I think people sitting around us must have thought of us two as two very pretentious people, going by the things we talked about last night.
And she responds almost immediately:
Why do you care so much about what people think? Most of the times people can’t hear us. Did you hear other people sitting next to us?
And my only response was, hahahahahahahahahahahaha—repetition exaggerated to avoid further confrontation, but Dawa marches on:
It is actually pretentious to think people care.
I had nothing to say but admit, True. I guess I am quite pretentious.
Do some people just talk and think that way twenty-four-seven? Dawa went to Smith and worked at Deutsche Bank for few years. Perhaps this pretentiousness is my inner desperation to belong to that circle of young professionals, to that group of work-hard-party-hard kids to whom putting up such façade has become a second nature and professional necessity. Dawa, in some sense, is a reminder of what I haven’t been able to accomplish with my life; a kindling spark that invigorates my insecurities over the choices I have made in my life, such as a bachelor in English Literature. No disrespect, but English Fucking Literature?
At the restaurant, Dawa remembers,
“I have always wondered why this place is called Fat and Salt.”
“Fat and salt is what you need for a good taste—perhaps the only ingredients.”
“That’s kind of true.”
…………………………..I was a member of the latter group: a group which consisted of people who thought it was just a transitional gig before his big break; those who saw this profession as something beneath them; those who always changed the subject when obliged to respond to “what do you do for living?” in front of a bunch of successful former high-school acquaintances. I remember thinking once, “if not for those generous scholarships, my parents would have probably made their worst investment to date.”
I remember using my order pads more for making personal notes than jotting down orders from the patrons. I remember eavesdropping at a couple’s table sensing infidelity, and listening with awe a meeting between a writer and an editor. I was learning a lot, but all at the expense of my self-esteem, which found a new bottom every day. Every day as a server, I encountered tiny epiphanies that frustrated me more and liberated me far less.
I felt that there was a disjoint between these two paragraphs–originally written as just one. In the first paragraph I am talking about the serving business in general and what kind of a server I was: you will see a lot of generalizations. And the second paragraph–which originally continued as the first paragraph– has more unique and personal experiences. The first paragraph is more of an exposition and the second is more of an introspection, which is very evident in the excessive use of “I” pronouns.
I tried using the “rhythm and repetition effect” as Callahan did in his essay, “Chimera.” I think that actually did a great job of connecting the two paragraphs. I think the first “I remember” sentence signals the transition from general to peculiar, which is the second paragraph’s tone and voice.
But when we do, like this morning, her image is as vivid as it ever was– her dark eyes as bright, her odd smile just as annoying. I’m not crazy.
(Callahan, 369: first and second paragraph proper)
“I’m not crazy” is more than just an harbinger of his subsequent scientific rationalization. It is a statement that disavows him of all the accountability he would have otherwise if we weren’t slaves to our body and its complex mechanism. “I’m not crazy,” can also be a justification for the unspoken emotion that he keeps occult because he thinks that his love towards his wife is logical and sane within the context of science, within the context of how human are really made as. He is, however, very careful not to mix the visceral and scientific justification together. He leaves it up to the reader to decide whether he is crazy or not; Is he crazy because of all those scientific jargon that he spews out, or that he sees his dead wife, or even whether he is crazy because he is trying to blur the boundary between emotions and science to make the sighting of his dead wife “as real as it ever was”. But one thing for sure, he is playing with a dualism and as with dualism, the hierarchy vanishes or it fluctuates all the time. In the last sentence of the previous paragraph, the use of “as” is ubiquitous and at the same time very effective. Are thoughts “as” real as the reality? Are the phantom and immunological memories of her wife as real as wife? I think we see the dualism here again in the form of an oxymoron: “dark eyes as bright”; “odd smile as annoying.” This paragraph break between these two sentences not only marks his attempt to make sense of his imagination, but also a declaration that for some people “as” is as real as the REAL.
First of all, I wanted to tell my readers a very simple story; I think that’s a good start for an amateur writer. I had tried writing about things that have had higher consequences and impacts on my life, but it was frustrating when my words and sentences couldn’t quite capture the things with the same passion that I wanted them to. So, I chose to write about a part of my life which has its subtle significance.
I think the story came easy to me. I have always wanted to write about my two year long experience of being a server and thought it apt to do it now. Every day as a server, I encountered tiny epiphanies that frustrated me more and liberated me far less. I remember using my order pads more for making personal notes than jotting down orders from the patrons. I remember eavesdropping at a couple’s table sensing infidelity, and listening with awe a meeting between a writer and an editor. So I had a lot of things to write about, to share with my readers.
I believe I struggled with the flow. I think my essay lacks a good flow that makes a good essay. I have tried shuffling sentences and paragraphs to little avail. Hopefully with revision, I will do a better job. I also struggled with the parallel I tried to draw between my experience and the concurrent world event. I think it looks rushed. Although I know that it is a forced and an alien component of my writing, I think I would be able to do a better job at connecting these two events and find the common essence.
I really think I am content with the word choices I have made in this story, although I am not too happy about “sporadically” and “perfunctorily,” but I can easily dismiss this glitch by calling them a part of a literary trope I am trying to use. But in general, I think I have averted myself from using words that are unnecessary. In this I tried emulating Zinsser’s advice, “The only way to avoid it [banal expressions] is to care deeply about words………………….Notice the decisions that other writers make in their choice of words and finicky about the ones you select from the vast supply. The race in writing is not to the swift but to the original. (Zinsser, 34)” Although the last sentence couldn’t be practiced to its fullest effect due to our impending deadlines, I have tried spending more time than I usually do to think if a word sit right or do I need another word.
As I already addressed earlier in this letter, I need to work on my flow. Perhaps give some more evidence and details. Now that I have written this cover letter, I think I can even include some of the things I have written here into the actual essay- the part on “tiny epiphanies” and other interesting anecdotes. Like any other first draft, my essay needs a lot of mending before it is remotely eligible for a publication. Thank you.
By Tenzin Jamyang
2010 was an eventful year for me in many ways. It was my first and probably the only year when I got to live in the city, New York City that is, for the entire length of its span: Partying into the wee hours of the morning and blowing my money away as if I were the heir apparent of a kingdom. It was the year after I came of age, and felt if I was coming into myself more and more as the months passed by. I also started developing a strong affinity towards literature, and finally found an excuse to pursue institutional learning—an appellation not without a pejorative undertone—once again; in effect I was going to give college another chance. I had played with the idea sporadically and perfunctorily until one day, brimmed with frustration from taking everyone’s non-sense, as a server at a restaurant (Tokubie 86), I decided to sit down and forge a letter filled with such redemptive sentiments that would evoke the sympathy of even the cruelest debt-collector. And forge I did.
I know many of you go to restaurants and think about servers, or waiters as they are called in some parts of the world, as someone who fakes a smile, scribbles something on his pad, and then shows up only when it’s time to flex your wallet. But from my experience, I can attest to the physical and mental toughness that this profession demands. For some people it is a fun profession because they enjoy being of some service, but for those who are just not right for this, it is an everyday torture. I was a member of the latter group: a group which consisted of people who thought it was just a transitional gig before his big break; those who saw this profession as something beneath them; those who always changed the subject when obliged to respond to “what do you do for living?” in front of a bunch of successful former high-school acquaintances. If you love being a server, then any form of hard-work becomes fun. For me, however, it was a drag even when faking a smile; I felt as if I was selling myself when shouting “Arasi masei,” as required by the management to make patrons feel themselves at Japan. I remember thinking once, “if not for those generous scholarships, my parents would have probably made their worst investment to date.” Those months of serving tables were nothing— besides a poor excuse for making ends meet— but hours of stress, finding new bottoms for my self-esteem, and finding out everyone else doing things more interesting.
On December 22nd of that year, as usual, I was crawling my way to work and literally two blocks short of getting there was when I received an email from my college. It was a confirmation with details about my accommodation at Union College—the recipient of the aforementioned letter. I still remember being at the door of a Starbucks café and telling myself, “The hell with Tokubei, I am going to finish “Brave New World” today.” My euphoria only got amplified with each cup of coffee, and after justifying and putting an objective spin to this emotion, the happiness still felt like an absolute reality—an emotion strong enough to duel with the desolation of death. After several attempts from my colleagues to contact me and understand my absence, ask they did, but I did not tell. I was not the one obliged to tell any longer. Obama, on the other hand, was completely revoking “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that day.