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thoughts on cinco de drinko, and being PC…

Once upon a time, I was an employee at the ASUCD Coffee House (CoHo). I was also a member of a social sorority and a lifeguard/swim instructor for Campus Recreation, which meant there was more social stuff going on than I can even think about being able to handle these days. There were exchanges and gatherings being hosted every weekend and pretty much the only thing that differentiated them all was the theme.

Margaritaville, South of the Border, CEOs and Office Hoes, Mardi Gras, Jersey Shore, White Trash Bash AND White Trash Wedding, FantasyLand, ZombieLand, 60’s/70’s/80’s/90’s, Graffiti, etc etc…. and basically all you did was dress up as something ridiculous and it would matter for the first 2o minutes, and then each party would just turn Drunk-as-Fuck themed. Davis is small and we hung out with the same people every weekend. The themes gave us the idea that we were keeping things interesting.

So yesterday after work I get five or so Facebook notifications telling me all the social events planned by CoHo supes/managers have been canceled. (Yes, it’s been a couple of years since I’ve been drinking with the CoHoes and the conversations have zero relevance to me whatsoever, but none of us ever left the Coho Party Group.) I then find out this morning that somebody came across the event page for the ‘Cinco de Drinko SLOSHBALL’ event and went totally apeshit at the description and accompanying picture of some people wearing sombreros and dressed like border patrol.

The outrage started with a letter to the Aggie: Guest Opinion: Cinco de Drinko

As a result, it seems the CoHo is no longer allowed to have parties and the (private) social group has been deleted from Facebook. Tomorrow morning, a boycott is scheduled. The organizer is asking students to ‘wear red in solidarity as a response to hate and bias.’ The event page for the boycott is bound to be taken down soon because of all the inflammatory statements on it, but just in case, you can check it out here.

OK. Think of the people you are surrounded by as a student at Davis. Incredibly intelligent but also very young individuals who, at twenty-something, seldom have the deep-rooted motivation to demonstrate an act of true racism. That is, an act that endangers a group of people or creates a situation of hostility.

Can Cinco de Mayo Sloshball really be the event that disturbs the perpetual peace of spring quarter at UC Davis? Seems to me that the real shit kicker is the organizer(s) of this outrageous boycott, who have ignited a stream of debate across social media and created a hostile situation where there was none.

So people are entitled to their own feelings and I get that the point here is to not write this off as a harmless joke but rather to understand that there are certainly people who will not think it is funny.

But Davis is about the most diverse, accepting, and progressive-thinking little bubble of a city I have lived in. In my personal experience, instances of encountering flagrantly racist individuals happen rarely if ever. I feel that if putting on sombreros for ‘Cinco de Drinko Sloshball’ was enough to enrage a leader of a particular student group on campus and spark a boycott, the real world is going to be sort of a challenging place for her.

I think that an important part of cultural sensitivity is being able to separate the sort of behavior poses a threat from what doesn’t. Flagging harmless activities as ‘racist’ only encourages racism itself and further drives a divide between individuals. Celebrating Cinco de Mayo is much less of a hurtful reminder of tragic incidents in Mexican history and experience rather than… let’s say, an enthusiastic celebration of Mexican culture in a contemporary context. Come on. We wouldn’t sit around drinking Negro Modelos and eating tacos all the time if we weren’t appreciative of what you’ve done for us and what we all now eat on Tuesdays.

I feel such a deep connection with Davis that watching this all unfold on my computer over the span of a few hours was enough to get me back into binge writing mode again. It’s such a small and precious little town that when something tips the scale, I wonder what is wrong with the world. The last time I remember an incident causing such an internet flare-up, students were getting pepper-sprayed. That was awful and all the media attention and subsequent discussion was 100% necessary. But this?

Donald Sterling was banned for life from the NBA this week for making some pretty atrocious comments regarding black people and it is literally all over the news. Well, it was more so in my face all week since I work in a bar where we show only sports-related TV programs, and that this week we hosted a press conference for the Legends of Candlestick so every sports journalist in the Bay Area was in the bar freaking out about it. The ban (and $2.5 million fine!) was seen as a victory and it was, as downright racist remarks made by someone in his position should definitely not go unpunished.

Reportedly, the Clippers reacted to Sterling’s comments by dropping their logo-ed shirts mid-court and wearing their red warm-ups inside out in solidarity before the game. Several other NBA teams followed suit too, which is awesome. I’m imagining that the CoHo boycott tomorrow might aim for the same thing but GOOD LORD, this is not the same thing. Let’s please not pull the racism card every time something hurts our feelings.

Speaking of the racism card, I’m now going to take this opportunity to defend myself. I had pretty passionate argument recently with someone close to me about how the title of my blog and everything in it is inherently NOT PC and how I am essentially blacklisting myself from potential employers because by casually dropping racial slurs and cursing I label myself as a ticking time bomb. There was a point made that my use of the word ‘chink’ takes the Chinese race back a hundred or so years.

This blog, title and all, are not going anywhere. If you have been offended by my use of the word, I sincerely apologize. If you look past the URL one might notice that I do not intend to demean Chinese race and culture but rather to express a need to break away from the stereotypes that surround us. My adult life has thus far turned out to be a stark contradiction from that of a textbook Asian (a definition which is changing but THAT’S THE WHOLE POINT). I thought it was downright hilarious when, in a job interview for a sales position for a recruiting firm two years ago, I accidentally used the phrase ‘not another chink in the chain’ to stress how I wanted to avoid falling into occupations that seemed right for me based on how I looked.

I will not go off on this from an Asian American Studies standpoint because that would be an entirely different can of worms and I’ve exhausted enough word vomit for one evening (seriously… 1100 words in a little over an hour? My old editor Erin would have adored this sort of efficiency). Essentially, this blog is what it is. A blog. I won’t change what it’s called or how I write in an effort to organize myself in a neat little politically correct box so that I look clean and polished from all angles. That being said, it’s important to note that it still an open forum. Each of these posts has my name on it, but as soon it’s published, its much yours as it is mine. Good writing makes people think, and you’re welcome to share what you’re thinking.

I think that’s enough for serious things. I missed this! I’ll be back shortly with some musings on being back from Copenhagen that I found in a draft folder a few months ago. Until then, somebody please tell me how this boycott works out. My hope is that everyone learns a little about cultural insensitivity vs. racism… but also gets a much-needed dose of humor.






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focus: family

Yesterday during a sunny afternoon at Søernes, I watched a guy in his twenties help an older woman into one of our highly coveted outdoor seats. He then came down to the bar and asked for a nice, really light beer, saying, “Just make sure it’s not a Tuborg! It’s for my grandmother.” I gave him a taster glass of Amager Summer Fusion (3.5%), sort of expecting him to taste it himself and decide based on that, but he took it back outside, saying he had to make sure she liked it. He came back in, said she loved it, ordered an IPA for himself, and proceeded to have a lovely time chatting away the afternoon with his grandma over beer.


I never imagined I’d only see my family twice a year and that both times would be because of a hospitalized family member. I also never expected to have make an inter-continental journey home for a funeral. Booking a flight home to visit my grandmother in the hospital only to land in San Francisco just after she passed started off an extremely difficult week at home that was only made slightly easier by copious amounts of beer (thank you Tyler, Maddy, Ryan, Fraze, Alex, Anand, Dan, Julia, Katie, Dustin)… but regardless, it was unbelievably refreshing to spend some quality time with the Chan Clan. Mother’s Day this year was unlike any other.

a perfectly hipsterific picture of my grandmother.

In the interest of sparing you any more weird hyper-emotional stuff, I’ll instead let my cousin Jennifer sum up a tribute to our Mah Mah. She put together an incredibly moving funeral program and it was perfect. 

For Jennie Lai Chan, it was the simplest things in life that mattered most, especially the fact that she loved her family and her family loved her. At her core, she was a generous and giving person who considered the needs of others before her own. She lived to care for her husband, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. The whole of her life could be seen as honest and ordinary but the kindness of her heart was immense and extraordinary.

On October 8, 1918, Jennie was born in a small apartment at 730 Washington Street in San Francisco. The First World War was coming to an end, the women’s suffrage movement had gained traction, and from her home base in Chinatown, Jennie would experience a world of changes during the 20th century.

Her parents, Alfred and Chan Shee Lai, raised her alongside her four siblings: Laura, Fannie, Daisy, and Edward. In 1937, Jennie graduated from Commerce High School in the Civic Center. That year, the Golden Gate Bridge opened and the soap opera “Guiding Light” premiered on radio. (Always a fan of soap operas, Chinese and otherwise, Jennie loved dramas and avidly followed her stories.) In her senior yearbook, Jennie wrote that she was a knitting sales- lady who enjoyed “telling yarns about her past.” She loved to knit and created beautiful and intricately worked sweaters and blankets for friends and family. As an eighteen-year- old graduate, she wrote of her hope to become a saleslady or bookkeeper and her plan to work to help support a future husband. Jennie would fulfill all those dreams during her lifetime.

In 1939, Jennie’s life changed when she met and married Frank Y. Chan. She moved around the corner to 827 Kearny Street, where she would live for the next 70 years. Situated above a bustling garment factory, home was an upstairs apartment filled with multiple generations of the Chan family: Frank’s parents, Yee and Mary Chan, and his younger siblings, Daniel, Phyllis, and Gloria, and later extended family members. During the Second World War, Jennie worked in the downstairs factory as uniforms were being sewn for soldiers. She and Frank raised four children – Karen, Curtis, Alan, and Gary – on Kearny Street, and, for many years, the home served as a gathering place for family dinners and celebrations. The kitchen fires were always burning, and countless pots of chicken soup and pigs’ feet were steeped and stewed over the years. Jennie and Frank were happily married for nearly 60 years; a partnership based on affection and respect was her greatest wish for her children and grandchildren.

Jennie’s first child was born in 1941, and her focus on her family never wavered thereafter. But she was also fiercely independent and contributed to the household through her work. She took a job as a secretary for a local lawyer who would become a court judge at City Hall and later became his wife’s caretaker. When her son Alan opened his optometry practice in the storefront of the old sewing factory, Jennie was the receptionist who greeted patients, scheduled appointments, and kept records. Only a stroke at age eighty-four could slow her down. She reluctantly retired from the front desk, and dutifully completed rehabilitative exercises so she could live on her own again.

Jennie was quiet in voice but strong in spirit and determination. She found great joy in witnessing new marriages and children in the family, and in attending graduations, holidays, birthdays, and church goings-on. As a founding member of Buddha’s Universal Church, she took comfort in her faith and dedicated much of her life to its mission. Her copy of Diamond Sutra was well worn and constantly with her as she sat in her favorite armchair. Always ready in her green smock full of safety pins, Jennie could be found coaching and costuming everyone in the “Boys’ Room.” She was immensely proud of her family for their dedication to the church, and especially for their roles in the annual play.

At the On Lok senior center where Jennie received health and wellness services, she was a prized friend. She could still see and hear well, her fluency in Cantonese and English made her invaluable, her mah jong skills were sharp, and she played for money (with a maximum of ten cents per hand!)

Raised at the turn of the century, Jennie held traditional views, yet her warmth and openness allowed her to accept people for who they were. She was happy when her boys were happy. She loved her wonderful daughters-in-law – Janice, Marina, and Jenny – and was satisfied to see everyone pairing up and settling down.

Jennie lived a simple but joyful life. She enjoyed buttered toast and instant coffee with milk for breakfast. She couldn’t resist a whole chicken on sale at the market. She had a sweet tooth; Kit-Kats and ice cream bars, presumably purchased for visiting children, were staples in her kitchen but she would sneak one, too.

Jennie took very few things with her when she moved into her first “very own apartment” several years ago, saying she had everything she needed. She did, however, keep careful track of her seemingly most valued possession: the stash of Tupperware containers she kept stacked neatly in her closet. She cooked for twenty when only two were expected, if only to provide her specialties to take home: fried chicken, won ton, pork hash, turkey stuffing, roast pork, and on and on. She smuggled home cartons of milk and cups of Jell-O for the little ones. She gave away her last meal.

In the end, she loved her family and her family loved her.


Jennie was devoted wife of the late Frank Y. Chan. She was the dearly loved mother of Curtis and his wife Janice, Alan and his wife Marina, Gary and his wife Jenny, and the late Karen Chan Lee. She was the treasured grandmother of Kevin and his wife Katie, Jennifer and her husband Calvin So, Brian, Craig, Noreen and her fiancé Ramon Sandino, Daphne, Lani and Tyler Chan. She was the adored great-grandmother of Brett and Wyatt Chan, and Eloise and Emerson So.

Rest in paradise, Mah Mah. You deserve it.


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