I am supine in a plush recliner. A woman is kneeling before me, pressing her thumbs into my feet. My friend Jon, a Chinese-American Tsinghua professor, is next to me in an identical chair. The TV in front of us is switched on a nature channel. The leopard pouncing on an unsuspecting gazelle makes sense in any language.
A man is rubbing Jon’s feet. “Is that your girlfriend?” the masseur asks him in Mandarin, nodding to me. “No,” Jon says, “she’s an old friend.”
“How old is she?” the masseur asks. Jon asks me and I answer 29 in English although I understand the Chinese. Jon translates and the masseur [...]
When I was nine, I knew exactly what I wanted to be for Halloween. I wanted to be Cleopatra. At the grocery store, there was a rack of costumes-in-a-bag you could buy for $9.99, and while my mother insisted on spending her time at the grocery store doing boring things, like buying milk so we could all survive, I’d beeline directly to the costumes-in-a-bag rack as soon as we walked in. My mother told me that I shouldn’t do that, because I’d get lost and she’d be considered a bad mother for abandoning me, but I felt she was being irrational. I would obviously be by the costumes-in-a-bag rack. The [...]
On August 9th, 1995, Jerry Garcia died, and I was on vacation with my new stepfamily in Provincetown, Cape Cod. It was the summer before eighth grade, probably the apex of my awkward period: oversize t-shirts, assorted yin-yang jewelry, a relentlessly troublesome T-zone.
The mourning Deadhead vibes were surely low-key in P-Town that August when compared to, say, San Francisco or Burlington, VT, but I nonetheless found the avalanche of dead-Jerry merch overwhelming. His lion’s mane silhouette was everywhere, along with the drugged-out anthropomorphic rainbow animals and threadbare lyrics about the long strange trip. I had only the vaguest notion of the music itself, but I was certain, thanks to [...]