The Search

I know a lot about my birth situation, which is surprising. I know the circumstances and the situation. I know that they weren’t married, and that my birth father really didn’t want me. I know that that was not the case for my mother. I know that she wanted to keep me. She just wasn’t able to.

Sometimes, I think that while growing up, even though this was my truth, I also saw it as a story. A fable about a poor woman who was forced to let her child fly away into the sky. I think I kept the strong emotions tucked away in the darkened half of my heart. But I always felt something was missing.

When I turned 30, I had a major life crisis. I suddenly felt like I didn’t know who I was, or what I was supposed to be doing. I adopted a kitten who made my life more miserable than it already was. I needed to figure out who I was. I began very seriously thinking about my Birth Mother search.

I struggled with the application. The letter to be written to her. Stuck on its first line; for years. Afraid. All of the possible outcomes rolling around within me. What if she doesn’t want to know me. What if she hasn’t been searching for me too. What if she is dead… I didn’t know if I was ready for the answer. I didn’t know if I’d ever be ready.

I don’t know if it was a woman I once worked with. She was extremely depressed and nobody could really get much out of her. I remember being in her room with her one day. I don’t usually talk about myself at work to my patients, but this time I somehow told her it was my birthday. People are always surprised when they realize I am working on my birthday. I can’t remember how, but I ended up telling her I was adopted, and telling her the whole story, and my fears about beginning the search for my birth mother. I remember that she then confided in me that when she was young, she had given up a child for adoption. And then she told me that she could guarantee that my birth mother wanted to find me.

I don’t know if it was the grey-haired Korean woman who hugged me on the day of her discharge, and told me how proud she was of me.

Or if it was the young, lost and confused Korean adoptee who wrote me a letter about how important I had been for her while she was in the hospital.

Or maybe it was all me.

But I finally finished the letter to my birth mother, and sent the application off to the adoption agency.

When I turned 35, I got a response.

They found my birth mother.

And she wants to have contact with me.

Found

I don’t even know if I can fully express how close to home this film hit. Especially right now. Granted, I was not adopted from China, under the cruel and intense circumstances that many children, young girls, were adopted under. These girls were adopted during the One-Child period in China.
Having surprisingly found each other through 23&Me, three adopted cousins made contact. They were all adopted to white families who loved and adored them. But, obviously these girls were raised around alot of ignorance and racism. A lot of the things that they quoted as having been told, might at one time make me laugh, because laughter is deflection. But the stuff said to them, while innocent at times, still reminded them of just how different they were, and always would be. And so a journey to find their birth families was begun.
The circumstances alone brought tears to my eyes. From one side, it is easy for an adopted child to think their birth parents didnt want them, or that something was wrong with them. In this film, we see parents who are absolutely crushed at remembering the child who was forcibly taken away from them, because it was against the law to have two children. And at the sheer difficulty of trying to locate their families when they had been left in boxes on the side of the street, wrapped in blankets and left on the steps of the government building. It opened my eyes more to the circumstances of my own Chinese cousins and their adoptions.
But the thing that resonated with me the most was the fear, because i also had that. The anticipation and the hope, but also the astounding fear. When asked if she wanted to see a picture of the people thought to be her birth family, one of the cousins sits for a while, and then just covers her face and starts crying.
This film ended up being so much more than a success story. It was a story of perspectives, and circumstances, and hopes and fears, and heartbreaks, and discovery, and growth…
This film found me at the exact moment I needed it.

The Urgent Need for Compassion

I had never heard this podcast before, but in this episode of The Man Enough Podcast, the three hosts are interviewing Alok Vaid-Menon, an incredibly smart and well spoken individual. They proudly identify as non-binary and talks about what that means in society in terms of how they are treated in public. They talk about the trauma of identity issue as a child, the inability to feel as anything but themself. They also talk about the stigma of the identity and how easy it is to be pushed into the corner of ‘weird.’
While I have a lot of thoughts and feelings on race discrimination, and have done a lot of reading about it, as someone who is not white, and treated as not white, I can identify with a lot of what Alok is saying.

It is an extremely heavy episode, as well as emotional for the hosts. Alok is an incredibly passionate speaker, and it might slap some people in the face to hear what they are saying. But for a lot of people, I think it will also open their eyes to more acceptance and compassion.

Blue Bayou

Justin Chon always seems to know how to punch me deep in the gut.
The first film of his I saw, about Korean youth from around the world. Korea had feared they were losing touch with their heritage and so hosted a camp in Korea for them. While being an almost version of Breakfast Club with an all Korean cast, it also featured a girl who had been adopted. Ironically, she finds out her Korean name and it is the same as mine. I resonated with her character pretty strongly.
The next film of his I saw, Gook, about a Korean just trying to survive in L.A. during the 92′ L.A. Riots. In which Koreans were huge victims.
This film, about a young man who was adopted at the age of 3, suddenly attracts the attention of the local police, and then I.C.E. and it is found out his naturalization was botched and he faces deportation. A story most people probably remember from right after Trump became president. And sadly, not an uncommon story, just one that is never told. And to be honest, something I had a lot of fear about after he became president. Even though I had complete faith my parents did everything right, I.C.E. was looking for loopholes just to kick people out. And while this character’s story was kind of unique, this film is an example of how terrifying it is for people of colour living in America. It is also a powerful example of how much trauma is involved in someone who has been adopted. And how difficult it is for them to talk about.
And honestly, this film painted a picture of a lot of things I had felt and not known how to put words to.

Den’venture – Epilogue

But Seriously..

It wasn’t all bad.

Recap:

1. I ate a Denver Omlette. (1.5. With Colorado Green Chili on it.)

2. I went to Red Rocks Amphitheater

3 (?). I didn’t eat Rocky Mountain Oysters, but I did eat Oysters in the Rocky Mountains.

4. I went to Union Station.

5. I drank (alot of) locally brewed beer.

6. I ate Colorado beef.

7. I went to the Tattered Cover book store (sort of..)

8. Selfie at “The Best View of Denver” spot. (Which was a lie…)

9. 5280 miles above sea-level. I found survival oxygen (multiple flavors).

10. I survived the Denver Airport.

Den’venture – End

Parting Shots

The gamble of staying in a hotel… At 3 in the morning, the high volume, verbal altercation of two lovers. Woman screaming at man, man yelling at woman. They are clearly having their spat right outside my ear. I’m fairly certain I hear someone telling someone that they need to leave. I am hopeful that it is a hotel staff member and then there is quiet. I am still awake an hour later when there is a knock at the door. Not our door. The door next down, and the calm voice of a man asking if he can please come back in. He asks twice before the door is finally opened, and there is quiet again.

On the fear of something going wrong, or maybe a lack of sleep, we arrived at the airport much earlier than we had planned. And while the Denver airport was unfamiliar to all of us, the sight of a line of people spanning one check-in counter, all the way to the extreme farthest check-in counter, seemed a little peculiar. We were directed past all the line of people and quickly checked ourselves in and further directed upstairs to go through security. We wiped our brows and headed up stairs, away from the line of people. As we rounded the corner and found ourselves able to look over the balcony to the security check gates our heads spun. The room was jammed! We followed the signs for security and as they took us back downstairs, we slowly began to understand that we were to join the ungodly long line. We followed it along, rounding one corner and walking from one check-in counter, all the way to the extreme farthest check-in counter, and then around that corner. We eventually reached the end, and packed in. Along the way the line was forced into 3 separate S loopies. The kind of bits in a line that make you walk back and forth 3-4 times, making eye contact with the same people 3-4 times, before allowing you to continue on.

And to be honest, getting through security wasn’t the time consuming process, it was getting to security.

Once through, we ran downstairs and hopped the tram to the C gates, our wild, yet successful guess as to our departure gate. We wiped the sweat from our brows and took a breath. First order of business, Mom needed coffee.

First coffee shop, another ungodly, PTSD inducing line. Second coffee shop, a line, but a manageable line, to reach the front to discover they don’t have her coffee. Third coffee shop, smooth sailing, until we finally sit, remove our masks, take sips of our coffees, and discover they had not made the coffee she ordered.

By this time Dad was hungry and feeling dubious of most of the restaurants we had passed for either being take-out only, or risking a line longer than we want to deal with. He managed to find a place close to coffee shop three, he got a table, and we seemed to be in business. This is, of course, before coffee shop three has bungled Mom’s coffee order. While Dad waited for us, Mom noticed the restaurant swivel the board out front and realized that as it had just struck 10:30, the restaurant had officially stopped serving breakfast.

We ate there anyway.

(Side bungle): While running around, I happened to notice the airport’s version of Denver’s famous bookstore the Tattered Cover Bookstore. The day before we had passed the original location and had missed going in and perusing by some 5 minutes. I found this to be my chance. Thinking better of buying a book and having to haul it all the way home, I asked if I could have a bookmark. Some proof and memorabilia that I had been. The cashiers were happy to give me one. I thanked them and ran out to catch up with Mom and Dad. When I pulled it out to show Mom, I looked it over twice before fully coming to the realization that it was complete advertisement and that nowhere on either side of the bookmark did it even say the name of the bookstore..

The plane ride was a short eternity. In front of us sat three, clearly drunk girls who yelled jovial stories and cackled with laughter. Mom yelled, “SHHHH!!” I yelled, “can you be a little more quiet please!” All to no avail. They were literally too loud to hear me yelling at them right between the seats. Dad said, “don’t you have your headphones?” …not the point, Dad…

As we began our descent, as expected, all the ticking time bomb kiddies began to yowl. Particularly some couple seats behind us. And I do feel bad, I can actually remember when I was that kid and how much the pressure hurt my ears. This poor man, who boarded the plane with a double wide stroller of two tots, and no partner. One child yowled and yowled and continually cried, “I want my mommy!”

Seattle was cold, wet, familiar. It took a little, but we eventually got our bags back. A smidge longer than 20 minutes and I made Mom go and demand our free miles for exceeding their 20 minute promise. She asked politely, and we got our vouchers. We bustled to the shuttle pick-up/drop-off zone and set about hailing the shuttle to get to our car.

4 tries and 3 different phones to confirm that the number Dad had was not working. 2 phones attempting to call the hotel that employs the shuttle, and currently housed our car. 1 answered phone at the hotel to tell us that their shuttle wasn’t running until 4. 1 check of the watch to let us know that it was 3. We would not be getting shuttle service to our car.

We bustled over to the taxi pick-up/drop-off zone. Eye contact and a nod, and a taxi driver began loading our bags into his trunk. As he closed the trunk he asked where we were headed. Dad told him. He gave Dad a slightly exasperated look and asked why we weren’t just getting the free shuttle.

When we finally got to our car it was pouring down with rain. We began off, and in typical Dad fashion, he turned. Of course, once committed, it is realized that it is the wrong way. Google assisted in getting us back on track, and we finally really were on our way.

And really, for as shit as it all was, for waking up and heading out at 8:30, and not getting home until 6:00, it could always have been worse. I routinely try to remind myself that I really could have something to complain about. And Dad falls back into the familiarity of driving his own car. He and Mom begin speaking softly in the front seats. And I stare out over the city. A city I understand without having to squint or try to focus. Its just there. It makes sense. I am back down on the ground, I can breathe, this is rain, but up there, straight ahead, blue skies and home.

And, of course, doughnuts while we wait for the ferry.

Den’venture – Day 4

More Than Meets the Eye

Having been in Denver for 4 days now, we decided to actually go into town and see the city. Being a Sunday and a home game day, the city was filled with the bright orange colours of the Denver Broncos. Short of dressing dogs and babies up as pumpkins, I am not sure I have seen so many people so proudly wearing such a loud shade of orange.

Once outside the three story open air mall, full of the typical mall type stores, we walked a bit of the main downtown street. Wide enough for foot traffic on either side, two public transport lanes, and a strip in between for whatever manages to take up residence there. Various food carts, simple tables and chairs, one block boasted a mini botanical garden. Along the way, restaurants and shops you’d expect to find on a downtown street. Busy enough to stay in business, but not eye catching enough to snare a tourist’s attention or money. At each cross street the waft of warm garbage and dirty socks. Here and there, tall important buildings covered in glass windows, blasting sunlight down to illuminate even the darkest corners.

We reached the end of the road and came to the fabled Millennium Bridge. It was wide and passed over the rail tracks, and mother stubbed her toe marveling the sights. And then we were across it. I turned back, not sure if I had missed something or not. No, a short 50 paces or so and one is across. But across is like a whole different place.

Descend the steps from the bridge and the surrounding buildings are close enough to provide enough shade to breathe. While reaching the cross street still provides the warm garbage and dirty sock stink, across that cross street is all green. A vast park of green grass. Not recently mowed, but lush despite the arid heat. Curving sidewalk embraces the soft domes and flats of grass, and eventually lead to another bridge. This one narrow and long, wooden slats that thump with each foot step, the whole structure seeming to bob and sway a little the further across you go. Below a river, rushing in some areas, gurgling in others, ducks paddling around among the algae.

Across that and you must walk left, or right. This street is quieter, but still full of life. Restaurants with outdoor seating spilling into the street, tent overhead and generous misting machines spraying customers like vegetables in a super market. We find a brewery and sit for a beer. And on the way back we get icecream.

30 mile drive to reach our dinner reservations. No longer in Denver, we found ourselves in Boulder. A smaller, cute, but clearly college town. The sprawling brick university buildings settled in the heart of the town. We went to the main street, an older part of the town. The street was not so much a street, as a walkway down along the shops. Giant fountain areas, sculptures, casual seating here and there, large areas for street performers. While all the signs stated no skateboards, no bikes, no smoking, no dogs, all the shops and seating areas had large bowls of water for dogs. Various random shops catering to, I’m not sure whom. And restaurants, all held up by the hustle and bustle of baby faced college kids. Never once was I carded.

We drove home in the dark. It wasn’t quiet, but seeing a city by its lights alone, is like tasting a soup without all the chunky bits in it. You simply get the deep flavor of what the soup actually is. The city at night, is vast and small all at once. It is large stadiums, and small apartment buildings. It is lights at the very top of a tower building, and lights along the rail of an apartment balcony. It is humble restaurants, and big chain stores. It is the familiar, and it is the unique. It was something a little bit different, but not to wild, and not to crazy.

Den’venture – Day 3

Brick Castles, Deep Woods, and Wood Fired Pizzas

Somewhere beyond the city, past the towering buildings and rushing traffic. Somewhere within the hills and down the winding roads. Somewhere past the fluffy trees, and dark, dangling berries. Somewhere through the woods, and just across the creek. There was a castle. We could only just see it through the trees, over the ogre bridge. The water wheel was spinning, and the birds were singing. We could have been spying on some strange fairy tale.

That was where my brother was going to get married.

This was not the proper way to reach the castle. This was the trouble making, rogue route. This was creeping up on the back side and catching young ladies playing a delicate game of badminton, or croquet route. This was the sneak your boyfriend in the back way route. No ogres guarded this bridge.

There were also a lot of dark holes in big walls. The kinds of holes that you can’t see in without the aid of a flashlight. The kinds of holes that one laughs and yells into during the day, and desperately avoids during the night. The kinds of holes that seem darker once you realize you are in a cellphone dead zone, and you’re on a trail called Lair o’ the Bear. What bears might be out to get you if you’re not paying enough attention?

We saw no bears.

Having sufficiently covered ourselves in dust and depleted ourselves of water, we drove back out of the hills and along the winding roads. We drove into the rushing traffic, towards the towering buildings. We found ourselves in a small town, where we ordered beer, wings, and wood fired pizza.

Den’venture – Day 2

Those Red Red Rocks

Today, our mission was to get to the Red Rocks. A renown place for its hosting of concert performances by famous musicians dating back to… I’ll be honest, I wasn’t really paying attention in the “hall of fame.” The day started off decent enough. Woke up, took a shower, the clouds had lifted and I could see, well, not mountains per se, but there were certainly hills out there, and we were off to see some of what Colorado has to offer. First stop, hot coffee, to wake up the mind and the bones.

Second stop, into the next coffee shop, as one had dumped their entire coffee over in the car just as we were hitting the open road.

We reached the small town of Morrison, with its two lane road and boasting of its exciting Ciderfest. Tomorrow… Once through the town we began to see red rocks. Google navigator indicated that we were close. Signs teased that if we took this turn we would reach our destination.

There was a lot of barking and breaking and missed turns, but eventually we parked.

The rocks were indeed red, jutting out of the earth at extreme angles like wrecked ships on the coastline. At a point you think, you’re looking at rocks… And then you think, goddam that Mother Nature, this is breathtaking. And I don’t mean the walking uphill part, though there was a lot of that.

More extraordinary than the mind boggling feat of Mother Nature, was the famous Amphitheater. Set into one of the giant hills. Bleacher seats reaching so high, as to emulate a basketball court. Stairs on either side, quite possibly the inspiration for the song Stairway to Heaven. It felt like the most epic conquest once reaching the top. And you turn and can see the entire world over the top of the stage. City, lake, hills, and beyond. And then you see the half a dozen folks utilizing the death trap bleachers as their playground for some Strong Man training session. We silently thanked the MC, or whoever was speaking into the mic, for kicking everyone out of the seating area as they were setting up for a show. We no longer had to feel both awestruck, and like a pile of shit, for sitting on our asses while these athletic miracles of men (and women) ran up and down these steps like a puppy with a new toy. We headed down the stairs and I told one Strong Man trainee to keep up the good work as we passed.

To fully embrace Rome, we decided to walk a short loop. It was lovely, and hot, and the red sand got in my shoes, and some of us thought we were going to die. Not really, but it is always best to plan your rigorous outdoor activities at exactly the heat of the day. My shirt was disgusting, it was actually disgusting. And it was white.

But, we saw the giant red rock named Froggy. Which quite looked like it had little toadstools on it. We saw a Donkey Deer, which looked like a regular deer, save for its jumbo sized ears. And we logged a lot of steps, and a lot of pictures.

And good exercise deserves good food. We met brother and fiancé at a little seafood restaurant near where they live. Fiancé knew all the people, and we were pretty hooked up. Lots of oysters, as it was an Oyster House.

I finally had a Negroni, which, *shrugs* not my tops, but if its good enough for Tony, its good enough for me. Although, next drink, I just went with a straight Gin and Tonic. And capped it all off with Budino and Peach and Blueberry Crisp.

Or rather, I thought we had capped it off.

Apparently the real cap was my brother and I going home with 3+ mosquito bites each. Really Denver?

Den’venture – Day 1

And we Danced atop the Clouds

If there is one thing I have come to realize, it is that Covid has caused people to forget how to be Human. It is almost as if being told to keep our distance from others, forced to hide our one form of non-verbal emotions, scared to even breathe around other people for so long, has caused us to forget how to evwn be around other people.

At the beginning of the movie Love Actually, the viewer is bombarded with images of picturesque airport scenes. Scenes of reunited lovers, of grandchildren seeing grandparents, old friends coming together… Everything an aiport isn’t. Even more so now. It feels as though people don’t even see other people. Lines exist just to patronize impatient caffeine cravers. 6 ft apart shortens to be however long a phone charger chord is. Masks are suggestions, simple barriers between hand and sustenance…

We arrived in Denver and the first thing I noticed, was that there were no mountains. Where the Eff were these supposed beautiful mountains? I don’t actually know what I had been expecting. Green trees? Snow capped mountains? Hip open-minded city dwellers?

Fields. Clouds. Cars that relied on other people’s e.s.p. to know they wanted to switch lanes.

A dubious first start. A little unimpressed…

We met with my brother, proud to show us his new home. We went for a short walk about the neighborhood. So many dogs. Bicyclists who ride at the speed of sound, and somehow just hope you have e.s.p. enough to jump out of their way as they pass. And crickets. Unseen, but by the sounds of them, they are the size of large squirrels.

The evening was topped with a much needed beer at the old English style tavern Bull and Bush (it is as inappropriate as only the English can be.) Dinner of large slabs of meat, washed down by locally brewed beer, some big golf trophy ceremony in the background, hosted by Rob Riggle (shrugs), and a toast to we know not what, but we were all together to have it.

Den’venture Prefunk

Dog tails, Cocktails, and Thai Food

Really, the adventure didn’t get started until practically tomorrow.

A quick trip to the ferry to get to Seattle, dad opted for a snack of French Assassin Fries. Leery, we were fortunate that the icecream machine was broken, barring mom from getting a sundae, and instead forcing her to get a throat soothing milkshake. And while the fries were screaming-napalm-hot-out-of-the-basket, nobody died.

We reached Seattle sometime after work, but anymore, when isn’t it busy on the streets. We had dinner at a new Thai place down the street from Aunty’s. As it is a vacation, I got the Ro’se cocktail. Some fancy drink of gin and rose syrup and something else, with a healthy sprinkling of rose petals atop. It actually tasted quite nice. A bit like a lovely, earthy lemonade.

It was dark by the time we drove to the hotel. Downtown Seattle. Not the destination, just the beginning. But I forget how bright big cities are. The bright headlights on the freeways, the ever illuminated sky high buildings, the flashing lights of signs advertising who knows what, the Franz bread sign lit like a sexy, Vegas attraction. I forget people live like this.

I remember a cemetery near my childhood home. A small thing, just right off the street. It somehow reminded me of one of the cemeteries in the original Legend of Zelda game. Out in front was a large torch. I always remember being flabbergasted that it was always lit. While, now I understand the symbolism of the eternal flame, I couldn’t imagine a light that never goes out. What a small town girl mentality. In the real world there are lights that are so bright they could snuff a candle out.

Outside, the silence is broken by the rushing sound of sleepless traffic. The big city river that never stops flowing. Over head, the occasional rumble of an airplane passing over. Noise. Lights, and noise… But, it is a reminder, that outside those curtains, the world is still alive.

Amy Tan: Unintended Mamoir

Her mother told her she didn’t have to get married if she didn’t want to, but she had to get a good job, and be successful, so that if she got married and wasn’t happy, she could easily leave. Amy Tan grew up hating her mother. Like most Chinese mothers, they put pressure on their children to be successful. Amy’s parents were adament to raise her and her brothers as American though, and the pressures put on them were not a typical American thing. But it was different for Amy and her brothers. She said her mother wasn’t a Tiger Mom, she was a Suicidal Mom. If you wont do what I say, I might as well kill myself. It wasn’t until the fear that her mother might be dying, much later into Amy’s adulthood, that their relationship changed. Amy finally took the time to get to really know her mother, and through that, she became a writer.
Like other writers I’ve posted about, writing was almost a way for Amy to make sense of things. Her first book, The Joy Luck Club, while fiction, was inspired by her mother’s life in China, as well as her own life in America, and the bridging of the gap between. She faced a lot of criticism about the book, for things like the broken English, and suicidal concubines, by Americans who probably had never seen Chinese people as more than just stereotypes. What Amy Tan did with The Joy Luck Club was bring to light the China that her mother and grandmother before her lived through. It also brought to light the modern day Chinese-American experience. Things, admittedly, and shamefully, invisible to most Americans. When Amy was in elementary school, on her birthday, she was terribly afraid her mother would bring Chinese food to the school. She was immensely relieved when her mother brought cupcakes.
Amy struggled with a lot of loss, and anger growing up. She grappled with fighting the expectations of her Chinese mother, and of being a successful writer and suddenly having literary expectations thrust on her. All through her books, I think, she was able to make sense of and process a lot of her own life. At the end of the documentary, you see her on her back deck, bird feeders everywhere. She has taken up art again and has beautiful and detailed renditions of various birds. Birds, I think, perhaps almost symbolic for her, for their absolute, weightless sense of freedom.

When I first speak to someone, they will generally automatically assume I am a bitch. And I mean, well… But it’s mostly just my voice. Sometimes I’ll get snappy patients that tell me I need to watch my tone of voice. I tell them that I was born with this tone of voice. It’s a low, soothing tone I like to call RBV, or Resting Bitch Voice. It’s the same voice for everything. This is my bitch voice, my empathetic voice, my bedroom voice… I just like to keep people guessing…