CBC Cultural Comedy Series: A Korean Family Making Good In Canada

Kim’s Convenience, one of Canada’s CBC Gem Comedy series about the relationship dynamics within a Korean family, is a lot like deceptively simple box art, or a series of snapshots in time, leaving much more to the imagination. Yes, it is comedic film. But no amount of coverage, try as the writers may, can encapsulate more than one angle at a time as the Asian-Canadian family struggles to adapt to a country radically opposite of their native South Korea.

It is an irony within an irony that then transcends. As much as the show depends on stereotypes to define the baseline of their inevitable deviance, the characters make cultural norms into an adjustment problem, the defining and overarching struggle of nearly every immigrant family of different do’s and dont’s from what we find in the West. Some seem to adapt more quickly; yet, they too remain “the outsider”. Kim’s Convenience reminds the us of that. What appears or, perhaps, was meant to be poking at comedic archetypes–the immigrant family with their funny accent and overbearing, old world parents, with rebellious adult Canadian-born children, and complete with a black sheep–is a reflection of whatever we want to make it to be of ourselves. For me, it is a foray into isolation, loneliness, and finding comfort in the family unit—something many of my online friends remind me they don’t have the luxury of having anymore, if ever at all. To further point out the irony, such friends of mine are mostly children of WASP-Cs. They may no longer be rich. They may no longer be upwardly mobile. Yet they suffer the same human emotions that I, as an adult child of immigrant parents, do. And, each of us suffer our isolation and loneliness in so many different ways…all of which lead to that one emotional road: heartbreak.

The story of the Kims is not unique. It has been overplayed in too many immigrant families. What is unique is the open-mindedness of the Stoic Mr. Kim, the patriarch whose stern exterior is mitigated by his soft spot for others’ sufferings. It may seem trivial, this owning a convenience store in a bustling, rich city like Toronto, but, no joke: it is the hub of the life of love. We see, in this box art-like snapshot, the quintessential nature of the best of humanity, often disguised in pride and old world sweatiness. The heartbreak in this Hollywood North series does not last long, with the exception of Jung, the renegade who manages to break free of the family in notoriety and reconciles with, you guessed it, the hard-boiled Mr. Kim. Even he, the ultimate head of the household, is a softie and a good hugger.

The Kims, are a breath of fresh air in their ingenuousness. Though the “severely over-parented” children seem on the surface to suffer the most from this dichotomy, it is the parents, with their ever-increasing self-awareness, who suffer for their children while trying, despite themselves, to keep the family “happy” and together. The Korean jokes never grow old, though they be two-dimensional. The story of an immigrant family doing what they know best, while trying to know better, will always draw audiences both entertained by what is heartwarming and challenged by what is our understanding of what it means to be Canadian.

Fighting The Behemoth

It used to be easier writing poetry in the past than now. The so-called muse would strike often, perhaps. Or it might have been the pre-Internet mindset, which demands a protocol of thinking so like a mathematician that the magic of life had been sucked out of the brain after two weeks of being online. Yet, one doesn’t miss a day of using the Internet; there is no prohibition, nor are there inhibitions, to do so. So, we sit during lunch hours, catching up with Facebook friends, or quirky but ephemeral Instagram posts. And more. We are addicts.

There’s nothing new in being an addict. The rituals are all the same whether you are grinding coffee beans or preparing the popcorn before turning on the television. (Yes, I enjoy that antiquated piece of technology.) The rewards usually are instant, and then diminish with use. The worst thing is that in almost all cases of addiction, it’s often wasted time and energy.

Can we stop the behemoth? That is, can we save this Maiden Poetry from being blackened into oblivion? We can only try. Sadly, poetry seems to be the first to be sacrificed when a society is in survival mode. But we are not in that material desperation. We are rich. We are well-fed, a bit arrogant, and definitely unconcerned. We are killing the highest art form besides opera and and painting. People of the new millennium just haven’t the patience nor have they developed the neurological pathways to enjoy sublimity unless it comes in the form of a dried-out bud.

Happily, many of us old-timers still remember. The sublime. The ephemeral. The otherness. The thrill of having reached that new level of consciousness. It was life for us, the fountain of learning. Let’s try to bring it back from it’s unnatural exile.

Take My Heart: Flash Fiction

I am panting; I’ve run a mile and I am exhausted. The road is gravel and tar. It’s almost off-road running only it was in the middle of a construction zone while the city takes its lunch break. My heartbreak is still there despite it all.

My calligrapher aunt used to tell me to run whenever I had a problem. I was young and stubborn then, but I eventually took her advice–after 25 years. She’s aged a quarter of a century. And yet she still doesn’t know how little running a mile has on problems. It only punishes the body and clears the mind–both good for the soul–but my empty gut tells me to keep running because I’ll never get there. Get where? To that part of me that contains happiness. Why not? Because it’s the lifetime of memories stored in my heart that drags me down.

I cool off by walking through English Bay. I see a dog. The dog has a red collar. The owner is holding onto it for dear life because it wants to sniff everything and everyone, and with everyone being so friendly to it, naturally, and so the black lab pup stops every two feet to greet the next bench of sun-worshipping West-Enders. What dog wouldn’t? I start to walk quickly, anxious not to get involved or pretend that I care. Most of the people here are anti-Hong Kong Chinese. A friendly lab could mean my demise into mockery. I steel myself for the passing by.

I am starting to spin. My legs turn to jelly. My left eye shuts and I cannot feel my entire left half of my body. Look! Ecce! Is that my heart melting? The black lab, probably only 6 months, is all over me, sniffing and frenetically climbing. I realize I’m on the ground now. And now, as things grow dim, I feel and smell the dog as it sniffs, whines, and licks me…and I am happy.

©️2018 Veekwriter All Rights Reserved

Love, That Fickle-Faced Creature

But it is not enough. Pursuing Beauty was meant as a stand-in for the absence of Love, that fickle-faced creature. It was because Love was not there when I was six that I wanted to be a genius, even though I knew I was not, because it had the shine of love. It was because Love was not there that the day before a new school year was to start, when I felt disheartened enough arguing with Dad, that I wanted to kill myself—for the first time, at the age of seven. It was because Love is not here that I feel nothing for other people at the age of forty-seven. It is because I am not listening to Love when it is there that I no longer care about myself or others or God. It is because Love does not exist in my heart that I don’t care about a damn thing.

I am acquainted with Bitterness though. I no longer care to kill myself. I no longer want to care to do anything but to aggrandize myself. I do this through narcissism and achievements. All I’ve ever known that mattered to me were achievements. I envy those who can circle their goals and swoop in for the kill once they’ve hunted and powered up. Well maybe not. We’re told that goals are a mountain we climb. Goals to me are not so cliché. We do all sorts of things to achieve our goals. Sometimes it takes procrastination. It takes dreaming. It then takes trudging and sometimes opening a vein. Whatever. Who cares. It’s just another dribbling writer telling you what you don’t care to know. The point is, I seek to be a great somebody because I can’t stand people. They tire of me too easily. I don’t trust people who claim to love me. I don’t trust people who are close to me. I don’t trust my extended family to have any interest in my personal benefit. I simply don’t trust.

God? I do want more than anything to go to Heaven, honestly. Only, God forbid that there should be people up there. Give me lions, tigers and bears. I don’t wish to infect others with my brand of loneliness. The bitter root spreads all too readily. I don’t know why I am heartbroken. I don’t know why I am bitter. I don’t know why I choose sadness over healing. It’s a Scorpio perversion, the darkness of its nature that makes it sting itself to death when surrounded by a ring of fire. It’s like it doesn’t seem to know that if it rushes forward over that fire, it only gets singed but slightly, that it has a tough exoskeleton to protect it. But it only sees an insurmountable threat. It sees suicidal danger. It sees no way out. And if anyone dares pluck the hypervigilant Scorpion out of the ring of fire, he himself gets stung. So, I have little use for relationships, because they won’t last past their salvation before the next threat comes.

Suddenly, I grow old. When men grow old, they date younger women to feel young again. They just catapult reality a block away and confront it again when it roadblocks them. When women grow old, they get bitter and isolate. They get cats. There is really no point in trying in anything because we all die. But if we don’t try, we don’t experience the thrill of being alive. I think the key to keeping that youthfulness is in trying. Trying new things, be they silly or mystical, are needed to survive until we die.

©️2018 Veekwriter All Rights Reserved

Taking Down The Wall Of Loneliness

I have, in my nearly half a century alive, amassed a shortlist of heroes and heroines. Obvious ones like one’s parents notwithstanding, duly acknowledged—mine consists simply of my second ex-boyfriend, my shrink (or as I joke, my PILF), my bestie in Australia, my gay social worker, and my youngest cousin. What makes them heroic? The measures they take to take care of me. They have personally touched a deep part of me that I never thought could be gotten to. It’s not the political figures or YouTube stars or random people rescuing ducks from a drain who touch me. The Internet has made all visuals fleeting and the feelings for them even more brutally so. Sometimes, there is a kind of fantasy I fall into that makes a handsome and charismatic stranger bigger than life, or bigger than my computer screen. But, the people who are in your life whom you’ve welcomed into your inner circle, and who don’t give up on you just because you process life differently—these are keepers. Hold them close. Don’t let go. That smile in your eyes that lights up at the mere thought of them speaks for itself.

There is a wall of loneliness in my life that is slowly eroding because of my hero-people. I had gone through unspeakable loneliness that only fantasies and pretentiousness substituted for real connection for most of my developmental years. I stare at the screen, my heart wrought and frozen at once, and I cannot begin, do not know where to begin. It is so utterly boring but so vital to me as a clue to why I am the way I am. No, I am not writing about it, I am sure, much to your relief.

What I want to know is what is it to this life that makes us want to get up and go in the morning? It’s different for everyone, so the cliché goes. Hedonism? God? Family? Friends? A Significant Other? I live for the glimpses of beauty I find in daily life. It could be emotional, it could be the pleasure of my first sip of tea; but, it is ultimately beauty for beauty’s sake that made me first want to learn music, finger-paint, read for hours at a time. That eternal strain of music or a shrewd turn of phrase in a piece of writing that opens a whole new world, that keeps me wanting to return to safety. I have had moments when I was so distressed that I would tie a yoga strap as a noose around my balcony railing and walking away because I didn’t have the courage to end it all. Suddenly, a strain of piano music, my first introduction to Her—She, who is called “Beauty”, plays from another apartment. And, then, I know I don’t want to die.

©️2018 Veekwriter All Rights Reserved