I wrote a short story entitled "Cheap Razor Blades" which was published in "Strike the Wok: An Anthology of Contemporary Chinese Canadian Fiction
Here's an excerpt - enjoy!
plod downstairs, only to be greeted by a grey, watery light,
marginally reflected on the off-white, personality-free dry
greyness seemed to just hang there, accentuating the
meaninglessness of existence with a mournful groan, as if
someone had just died. Shit.
That’s southern Ontario in the wintertime.
You know, if I’d woken up three hours earlier, I’d
at least be treated to a sliver of sunlight.
It’s a weird Canadian winter anomaly; it’s often
sunny at dawn until just before noon, and then it clouds
over… almost the exact opposite of San Francisco.
And almost the exact opposite of Good.
I usually wake up past noon, so I burn.
Or freeze, as it were.
I’d read a number of United Nations reports on global
warming a while back, claiming that Toronto would be the place
to grow avocados and pineapples in the winter come the new
looking at the clouds, the dirt-layered suburban snowdrifts
outside, the un-shoveled sidewalks and driveways… lordy,
they couldn’t ’ve gotten it more wrong.
the bottom of the stairs, I look around that the same scene
that has greeted me for much of my youth… that is, when I
actually belonged here. My
house is a nice one, I suppose – a modest brick box in
northeastern Toronto, birthed by a large construction company
mother in the late eighties, when most land up here was used
for farmland, golf courses, and people with names like
Burnett, McGill, and McGrath.
Pretty clean and well kept, despite twelve-odd years of
boisterous family living… well, as boisterous as Asian
families can get. Classic
Chinese Canadian décor:
Mom’s Chinese watercolour creations living side by
side with modern art prints, statues of the Buddha next to Leon’s
furniture done in tasteful, slightly-out-of-date cream
kitchen was also filled with a weird mix of western and
Chinese accoutrements – cans of tuna and Campbell’s
red-label soups stacked neatly beside large packages of sows
ears or pigs collars… all sorts of quasi-medicinal dried
Chinese goodies my mom boils up into nutritious soups that
stave off colds, scurvy, and errant silver bullets.
were times long ago when my folks needed to travel all the way
to downtown Toronto to buy that sort of stuff.
We were living in London at the time, one of three
Chinese families embedded in a neighbourhood of wispy
take these bi-monthly two-hour drives into Toronto’s teeming
Chinatown to pick up anything and everything – canned this,
chopped that, hung and dripping whatever, freshly scaled and
beheaded albatross or aboleth or something or other.
And after a dim
sum session with the relatives, we’d just go home and
store this stuff in cupboards and freezers like survivalists,
only without the fatigues and neo-Aryan hate literature.
The two-odd hours of traveling I remember quite well… aside from getting dizzy reading comics in the car, or squeezing my baby sister’s fat cheeks, or listening to my mom babble about how boring London was and why we should all move to Toronto – the trips were mostly filled with music. The Olds we owned had this tape deck, and my dad, Commander-in-Chief of our music choices, would always play his oldies. But he didn’t play the “cool” oldies that are so fashionable in Hollywood Baby Boomer nostalgia blockbusters these days. Just really, really square ones. Cheesy Johnny Horton historical sagas, old Bee Gees pre-disco ballads, jangly sixties beach guitar tunes, and (of course) various selections from The King (“maow wong” = The Cat King) himself.
was freaking hellish. It’s
all been irrevocably cauterized into my memory and garnished
with a strange, sickly nostalgia.