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Santa Cruz, not Santa Claus!

Posted by on Dec 18, 2010 in Asian American, Ed, Ghosts, Writing | 0 comments

Amberly Young is so awesome! (Did you draw a heart because you love me?)

Santa Cruz is a beautiful place and University of California, Santa Cruz, has the best-looking campus I’ve ever seen.  It seems hidden within a forest of giant redwoods.  A guy who took me around campus told me that new students often become lost on the trails that connect the campuses.

I was intrigued by the Mima Mounds — Kyle, you rock for bringing me on the long and perilous hike (we had to climb a barbed-wire fence) to them.

Why was I there?  Well, the incredible Karen Tei Yamashita (recently robbed of the National Book Award for I-Hotel) brought me out there!  Things got off to a bang right away when Karen and her husband Ronaldo picked me up at the San Jose airport (Santa Cruz doesn’t have a commercial airport, though that doesn’t stop people from getting high) and we went straight to awesome Sesshu Foster‘s class, “Introduction to Reading Fiction” (or something like that).

Now, I was fresh off of nearly seven hours of airport/airplane bullshit (NYC -> LA -> SJO).  I didn’t know what the hell I was going to say, but I was going to be as enthusiastic as possible! Helpfully, Sesshu had compiled questions from his 200+ students and I answered them in a funny and frivolous 35-minute lightning round.  I finished by reading “Chinese New Year,” a short story about a lunar new year party in the 80s that I first read at the Asian American Writers’ Workshop for a marathon reading in January 2009.

That night I got to see for the second time the magical spectacle that is Karen Tei Yamashita reading I-Hotel in front of an auditorium crowd.  After they took me to my hotel, right next to the shore, I was too jazzed to sleep.  I walked down the lonely streets until I got to a CVS, bought some dental floss, protein bars and vitamin C drops.  Hey, you never know.

The next morning, I went to Karen’s class, an Asian American history class, I think.  I read “Chinese New Year” again, because you can never get too much of a good thing and also answered questions about This Is a Bust, which the students had read (um, were assigned to read) a few weeks earlier.  One of the TAs mentioned that a student had said the ending was a bit too neat.

In mock furor, I looked over the class.  “Who the fuck said that!” I demanded to know.  One guy jokingly raised his hand.  He’s my favorite guy ever.

Then we had lunch at the Santa Cruz indie version of Au Bon Pain.  It was pretty good and the sun totally baked us.  I met some interesting people from Brazil and got to talk to some grad students, one of whom was working on a thing about hapa authors.  Great!

One can be eaten while trying to find banana slugs!

Then I went to Karen’s creative writing class and had sort of an out-of-the-body experience as a group of six students read passages from Waylaid and then added their own writing written as if an outtake from the book.  One dude, playing the Vincent role to the hilt, showed up bare-chested and dressed only in shorts and flip-flops.  While speaking to them, I was amazed to find that no one was from Jersey.  What?  I answered a bunch of questions — as honestly as possible.  I told them all to set up 401(k) accounts.  To understand what money is.  If there is not a whole lot of money coming in, they’ll be well prepared.  If there is a whole lot of money coming in, they’ll be prepared.  D’oh!  I forgot to tell them to read 78 Reasons Why Your Book May Never Be Published and 14 Reasons Why It Just Might.  I recommend it to anyone who asks who wants a frank assessment of the biz.

My ego is too big to fit on this screen, so they put my bio up instead.

After that there was a window of a few hours and Kyle was cool enough to take me to the Mima Mounds.  We had walked so far we had to take a campus bus back to make it to my main event in time: The Living Writer Series reading.  I read from all three of my books and, of course, “Chinese New Year” to kick it all off.  An hour and a half whizzed by!  And Amberly Young presented me with her amazing fan art.  I broke with the terms of my probation and hugged her.

Later, Karen took me and a group to Santa Cruz’s best (only?) Chinese restaurant.  Forgot the name, but it was awesome hearing ghost stories from the crew and also meeting Vicki Nam, editor of the supa fly dope Yell-Oh Girls anthology.

They took me back to the hotel later that night.  I had to get up early to catch the 6 am Greyhound to San Francisco for an incredible adventure.  But too many people blog about San Francisco, already.  You don’t need to hear my story.

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