Posted February 18th, 2009 by

It’s so Hard to Say Goodbye

If there was one person that I had to pinpoint as my role model, aside from my parents, it would be my Grandmother (Halmoni). She was an extraordinary woman that really kept her family together through many terrible events. Originally Halmoni and her family lived in North Korea. But when there was news of a potential war between North Korea and South Korea, my halmoni gathered up her eight children and her servants and decided to head to a relative’s house in the south. My granddad was out hanging out with friends he wasn’t part of this mass exodus. However, my halmoni left directions for my granddad to hide in a barrel of rice until the coast was clear. So that is what he did. He stayed in a barrel of rice for 3 days. When the coast was clear, he too found his way to his family.

The thing is, my halmoni was pretty well off in the North, but when she went to the South, she came with virtually no money. So she worked by making rice cakes (dduk) on the street and selling them. This is how she kept all her children and her servants alive. So slowly, she made money and saved up and again had enough to buy a house. She sent about 5 of her children through college. She really ran the household more than my grandfather. If you still can’t picture what kind of woman she is, then go rent Soul Food the movie. She was exactly like Big Mama in the film, minus being black.

Well Halmoni moved to the US in the late 1970’s. Eventually, most of her family moved to the US too in search of more opportunities. Back then, the US was very much known as the Land of Milk and Honey. If you are not familiar with Korean History, let me just say that South Korea was pretty shitty in the 1970s and 1980s. Military coup de tat, shitty economy, etc. Basically, they immigrated to the States just for a chance at a better life. For most of my family however, they didn’t really get to experience the milk and honey that was promised to them. Most of my uncles owned liquor stores in shitty neighborhoods. Well, when I was born, my Halmoni really treated me well. I was her favorite grandkid. Its probably because I was the first born child of her youngest child. I remember liking her more than my own mother many times. My halmoni also showed me how a person should live. Some people have the bible or religion but I had my halmoni.

She lived in an assisted housing program in Downtown LA with my granddad. My granddad was like that cool playa type you see in blaxploitation movies. He was always dressed like a G. He smoked cigarettes out of a pipe. He also drank a glass of Chivas Regal after every meal. My halmoni was always the warm grandmother that always did everything for me. When I was 5, I went to my first taekwondo tournament. I was unbelievably nervous and I kept on going to the side to throw up. Then I remembered what my grandmother always told me. No one in this world is better than you. No one is worse that you. Its all about how much you want it and how much you work for it. Well I did lose that tournament but her words still ring with me today.

I would have to say the saddest moment of my life was in the 8th grade when my beloved halmoni passed away. I felt like the only person that I could count on to be supportive of whatever I wanted to do just left my side. I remember crying profusely at her funeral. But every now and again I see my halmoni in my dreams. She continues to tell me to work my ass off if I want to do anything. So halmoni, I know I haven’t been the good person you always wanted me to be but I want you to know that I still will do my best. 

Posted January 29th, 2009 by

My parents owned a liquor store in East Los Angeles. They named the store Denny’s, not because they loved the restaurant but because they wanted to name it after me and their English was just terrible. So Denny’s market was an interesting place to grow up. My house was located right behind store. I can tell you thousands of stories about the liquor store but a couple of them really have formed who I am.

I have done a lot of bad things in my life but I have never stolen a single thing in my life. This is because I know how much it hurts to get your merchandise stolen. My parents worked their asses off to stock the shelves, buy the inventory, keep the store clean and for someone to steal anything, even a candy bar sucks ass. Anyways, there was a time when the bottle caps of the 40 oz bottles of beer were missing. I had a hunch it was this crackhead that would come in often. He would often go to the beer section and stay there for a while, opening lots of doors. Eventually, he would come to the counter with a bottle of Thunderbird. That shit was probably the nastiest alcoholic beverage I have ever tried. It’s cheap and it will fuck you up. Anyways, I told my dad that this guy should be the one who is stealing all these damn bottle caps. So we decided to catch the fucker in the act.

The next day, that crackhead stumbled into the store. My dad set up some video cameras to monitor the beer section. The crackhead proved me correct by opening up a Budweiser 40 oz bottle and putting into his pants pockets. This is when I locked the front door and ran at him with an aluminum baseball bat and my dad ran at him with a golf club. We fucked that dude up. He was a real life piñata to us. My dad picked the bum up by the throat and decked him in the mouth.  When that happened, a small red particle flew out of his mouth. My dad thought saw that and decided to stop the beating and threw him out. I looked for that small red mass that came out of this dudes mouth. It turns out that it was a small water balloon filled with crack. My dad snatched it away from my hands and told me never to do drugs. Then he found another neighborhood crackhead named Moondie and sold him the crack from 20 bucks. My dad actually sold drugs right after he told me to never to do it. Now that’s education for you.

Now I am guessing you are wondering what is with the bottle caps. Well, apparently these aluminum bottle caps where useful in cooking this crack. What a great thing to know at an early age!

The other liquor story has to be about the neighborhood bird lady. If you live in a shitty neighborhood, then you have to have a creepy bird lady. That is a requirement. I don’t remember the lady’s name but let me call her Maria because she is Mexican and Maria is a common Mexican name. Well Maria always fed birds in the middle of the street. Hundreds of pigeons would be on the street because of this lady. Anything that would disturb her birds eating will cause her to go into a yelling rage. No one knew what she was saying. It wasn’t English or Spanish. It was like some ancient voodoo curse. So Maria always comes into the store to buy sunflower seeds and milk. The problem with Maria is that she smelled like a Viking. I knew Maria was in the store even if I was looking because the store always smelled like wet trash. Even her money smelled awful. It was so bad that I would get the money and wash it in the sink with detergent and iron it. If not then the damn register would smell. My dad would always make me tend the register when Maria was in the store.

Well one day Maria was at the store with for her usual seeds and milk. However, she was short a dollar and even though I couldn’t understand the words that were coming out of her mouth, I knew she was asking me to let her slide. Since I didn’t want to argue with her I said fine and she smiled. Then she reached over with her greasy, rancid right hand and rubbed my cheek. She said “Good Boy.” She then walked out of the store with her stuff. I was shocked because I didn’t expect her to semi-molest me. I went to restroom and washed my face. But no matter how much I scrubbed, my face smelled like shit. And from that day on every time I passed by Maria, she would smile at me. The neighborhood bird lady wanted to fuck me. That is one vagina I will never ever want to see. Well hers and Rosie O’Donnell.

Posted January 22nd, 2009 by

As stated before my dad used to teach Taekwondo in Korea. If you are not familiar with Taekwondo here is a brief explanation. It is probably one of the most useless martial arts out there. Trust me. I know what I am talking about in terms of Taekwondo. I am a 4th degree black belt in it so I think I have some knowledge of the sport. Well, my dad enrolled me into Taekwondo for a couple of reasons. 1) I was a fan of Bruce Lee. Bruce would fuck anyone up on film and I thought that was pretty badass. 2) I needed to learn how to protect myself because I started getting into a lot of scuffles in my neighborhood.

So at the age of 5 I started doing taekwondo. The first taekwondo school I was enrolled in was Choong-Hyo Taekwondo. The head master was this small dude with this mustache. He really wasn’t in the business of showing by example. In the 8 years that I studied under him, I recall about 5 instances where he actually did a kick or punch to show us how something was done. Granted that when he did kick a bag or something, it was pretty damn powerful. I hated that school because I really didn’t learn anything about self defense. They taught me useless forms that would never work unless you are Ralph Macchio in Karate Kid 3. (Terrible movie by the way) So, I was thinking about quitting but my father had a saying. “When a man pulls out a sword, you should always draw blood.” For all of you that don’t understand the meaning of this saying, it basically means that you need complete everything that you set out to do. Never give up.

Luckily at the time that I was about to give up, there was another teacher at this school that taught me other martial arts on the side. It really was exciting. He then asked my father if I can be his assistant instructor at the new school he is setting up. My dad agreed and from then on I learned real self defense. From aikido, judo, and jujitsu, I learned it all. I even started excelling at Taekwondo. I started winning most tournaments that I entered and even got to the nationals.

The funny thing about this is that my body is not ideal for taekwondo. I was skinny from the waste up. Waist down, I looked like a Mexican chick after giving birth to the 4th of her 8 children. On top of that, it have unusually short legs so there was a disadvantage with reach most of the time. But my philosophy for taekwondo was a little different from the norm. I always thought that my opponent may hit me more times but the times I am going to hit this guy, he is going to definitely feel it. I guess the notion that I am going to maim someone really put a lot of things into perspective. I was rarely nervous to go to tournaments.

There was this one tournament that comes to mind. It was in Camarillo California. We were sitting in the waiting room when the one Armenian guy kept talking all this shit that he was state champion. He actually told me that he was going to beat me. That really didn’t sit well with me and luck would have it that I would fight him in the prelims. We are getting set to fight and he lets out this primitive yell to try to psych me out. Unfortunately for him, I made up my mind that I would make sure I own his ass by the end of the match. I looked at him and smirked. When the referee signaled to start, I kicked him in his head with a spin hook kick as hard as I can. The Armenian dude’s helmet flew off of him and landing in the sparring ring next to us.  Now my opponent is kind of mad. He fucked with his pride. He comes at me again and I cracked him on the head again. This time he crumbled to the ground and again his helmet flew.  So he got up and now I could see he was a bit terrified. I told him he might want to tighten the helmet down because it’s going to fly off again if he doesn’t. So the referee signals to resume the match and I toy with him. I give a weak kick to his chest. He doesn’t really attack because he doesn’t want to get his ass kicked again. I pepper him with some more kicks and he just takes this humiliation. I guess his coach couldn’t stand this and yelled for him to attack me. So reluctantly he attacks and this time I kick his head as if this is the last kick I will ever throw in my life. The guys eyes roll back and they called the medics to wheel this kid out.

I win and I go back to where most of the guys in my division are and I just look at them. Two of those guys actually got up and quit the tournament. It really felt good to shut this fucker up. I feel like you can only talk big if you can back it up. Some examples of people that can talk shit are: Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Tiger Woods, Manny Pacquiao, William Wallace from Braveheart, Maximus from Gladiator, and Bruce Lee.

The moral of the story is you might never know who is in the room so shut the fuck up.

Posted January 21st, 2009 by

I am blessed with great parents. I have credit the small amount of good traits I have to them. They both work their asses off for my sister and me. The story about how my mom and dad met is not your average love at first sight romantic comedy.

My dad came to the US in 1978. He graduated college in Hanyang University in Korea with a degree in electrical engineering. However, he decided to come to the US to start a new life. He had a ton of odd jobs when he got to Los Angeles. He worked at a gas station. He worked at a fish market. All these jobs did not let him utilized what he learned in college. Well aside from changing light bulbs. So while he was working at the fish market, my mom’s mom, halmuni, saw my dad. According to her, she saw that he was unusually tall for a Korean of that generation. He seemed like a hard worker, and he didn’t have a ring on her finger. She invited him to her house because it looked like he didn’t have a good home cooked meal in a while. My dad thought fuck it why not and went. She seemed like a nice lady.

So when my dad went to my halmuni’s house, he was met with lots of good food. It was just him and her sitting at the dinner table. My halmuni liked the way my dad was eating food. She says he ate the way men should eat. Not too sloppy but not like a pussy either. So halmuni gets a picture of my mom and shows it to my dad and tells him that she would like my dad to marry her daughter. My dad saw the picture and thought why not. She is pretty cute. So my halmuni give my dad some cash to go to korea and find my mom. My dad agreed.

My dad gets to Korea and meets my mom. My mom was living with her siblings. Now my mom family is all tiny in stature. My mom is 4’8 on a good day. So my dad thought he stepped into Snow White’s house. What is up with all these short people, he thought. But he met my mom, regardless. Thought she was cool and after a couple of dates, he brought my mom to the US and got married.

They have completely different personalities and yet they have stuck together for all these years. They have grown to love each other and undoubtedly they love my sister and me. Every day that I live my life, I am reminded how lucky I am that my parents are always there for me. Sure, we still have a lot of differences and they are not fully approving of my career choice but it is understandable. Thanks mom and dad for supporting this scumbag.

Posted January 21st, 2009 by

I find it kind of funny how minorities are kicking white people’s asses in academics. Even in English! Sure we have accents and may not be the best writers in class but just look at the national spelling bee. Those Indian kids are kicking everyone’s ass. Here are a list of names of the champions of Scripps National Spelling Bee for the last 7 years:

2002 Pratyush Buddiga
2003 Sai R. Gunturi
2004 David Scott Pilarski Tidmarsh
2005 Anurag Kashyap
2006 Katharine Close
2007 Evan O’Dorney
2008 Sameer Mishra