Saturday, April 26, 2008

Please excuse the picture of my demented face below; if you didn’t know, I will be going to the Beijing Olympics as an intern and they needed a headshot. No worries, I did not send them the aforementioned photograph.

Life was unbelievably exciting today, with several notable meetings; this further evidences the constant mental stimulation we’ve been experiencing while in LA. Elena and I didn’t return home until about 11:20p, after Pauline graciously drove us back home to Gramercy Place. I’m sure our mothers would be pleased to know that we weren’t wandering the dark and dangerous streets of LA after dark. We arrived home so late because tonight we attended CAM’s first (annual?) spring banquet. Though the pre-dinner moments were a little hectic- including Elena and myself hastily counting and ripping raffle tickets- the dinner went over marvelously and was a huge success. Dinner was a delicious nine course meal at the Golden Dragon Restaurant in LA’s Old Chinatown. Besides the fabulous dinner, Elena and I enjoyed the company of Eugene and Susan Moy, prominent members of the Chinese American community in LA. Although Mr. Moy now resides beyond the boundaries of Chinatown, he can call this section of LA his birthplace. Through the course of dinner Mr. Moy and I discussed my potential thesis project (transnationalism), a Chinese American asparagus farmer, and the Chinese Historical Society of LA. During the post dinner commotion, Corky Lee (a Chinese American photojournalist we met earlier in the day) introduced us to his actor friend, Tzi Ma. Tzi Ma is of Red Doors fame, and may also been seen in Ladykillers and Rush Hour. Not only did we get a picture with Tzi Ma, but also one of Corky Lee and a member of the Chinatown court.

Following this exceptional meal, Mr. Moy was kind enough to take us on a tour of the two buildings that houses the Chinese American Historical Society. This historical society, of which Mr. Moy is one of the founding members, was the group that brainstormed the idea for the Chinese American museum back in 1979. Consequently there is tremendous overlap between the board members of the historical society and the CAM, including Mrs. Suellen Cheng and her husband. Tucked away in two unassuming turn-of-the-century houses, the Chinese American Historical society stores a decent collection of archives, its own library, and an intriguing assortment of artifacts. Amidst their catalog of rare items, are the transcribed letters of the Chinese American asparagus farmer, as well as the remnants of Old Chinatown after it was razed over to build Union Station. Elena and I have also been penciled in to have Mr. Moy give us a personal tour of Old Chinatown next week. sI consider myself lucky that I happened to flop down in the seat next to Mr. Moy, as without that random encounter I would’ve never met him and been introduced to the treasures of the Chinese American community. I’m also thankful that Elena allowed me to tag along, and share in this wonderful intellectual adventure. Speaking of intellectual adventures, we’ve spent a good amount of the day explaining the unique qualities of Colorado College, primarily the 3.5 week block plan that allowed us to embark on this LA adventure.

The day we enjoyed prior to the banquet was fun-filled as well. After arriving at the CAM, we continued on the scrapbook project that Elena and I’ve mentioned in earlier posts. Photographing and cataloging has opened my eyes to the nature of museum work, and I wonder if I am capable of pursuing such a field. If I do, or if I don’t, I’m so happy to be immersing myself in the field and fully experiencing not only museum work, but also the lives of those we’ve seen in the home videos and now seeing in the scrapbooks. Time flew by, and before we knew it lunch hour arrived. Elena and I venture to the Biscaluz building to meet some of the staff and Corky Lee for lunch.

Corky Lee was another intriguing personality we had the pleasure of meeting. Not too long after introductions and a couple handshakes, Corky began talking about his photographing of fortune cookie production, and this supposedly Chinese culinary item may have begun in Little Tokio. When we indicated to him that we were students at Colorado College, he had some fascinating things to say about Colorado Springs, Garden of the Gods and the Air Force Academy.

Over pad thai, yellow curry and green papaya salad, our lunch party engaged in an thought-provoking conversation about the position of Chinese Americans in modern day American society. With the ever expanding Chinese economy and its associated soft power, Americans are feeling more and more threatened by China. And should the situation ever arise where Americans were losing their jobs, this could be attributed to the exporting of labor to China. Corky noted that Hilary Clinton even recently mentioned an unfair trade of American jobs for tainted Chinese goods. Race-based discrimination is not a new thing in history, with Japanese interment camps in the WWII era. And these embarrassing parts of American history are likely to occur again, if they aren’t occurring as we speak…Guantanamo Bay? According to Corky there are currently 2 Chinese Muslims being detained at Guantanamo.

Thus far in LA, every day has been better than the last. And I hope that the days just keep getting better. Tomorrow morning Elena and I are going to the beach and enjoying the beautiful California sunshine. Tomorrow night we’ll be attending another banquet-like function for an association of Chinese American engineers. All I can say is that I’m eager to see what thrilling adventures we’ll have tomorrow…