Kicking it with Nami Mun

So I was kicking it Nami Mun the other day.  Actually, let me contextualize that last line because the way I wrote it makes it sound like it was an effortless thing to do, like I just pushed a button on my iPhone + suddenly Nami Mun appeared from the ether with a bowl of cherries and a cup of mint tea.  Actually, we were gonna meet at this restaurant in Lincoln Square called Bakin and Eggs.  Yo, when I saw that name (I'm vegan, remember), I rolled my eyes + was like:  Well, this should be interesting.  But actually I did find something in their online menu before I got there (a rad sandwich of roasted veggies, arugula, hummus + multigrain bread--surprisingly good).  Anyway, so I showed up 10 minutes late cuz that's just how I do.  When I finally got to the restaurant, I marched right in past some smokers, looked around for Nami + then sat down at a table that was completely in my line of vision with the door, my face receiving the door's chi (I'm a little Fen Shuiey when it comes to this shit).  I ordered lemongrass green tea, checked my iPhone religiously + waited.  For like 45 minutes.  I'm sure, actually I know, that I felt like I was on a blind date, but not a romantic blind date, a literary blind date, whose rules are so much less clear to me.  I was a little fidgety, I was obsessed with my phone, I sent Nami several Facebook IM's telling her I'd arrived + giving her my phone number to make things easier, I gave the kind waitress several apologetic smiles, wondered when I should take my invisalign braces out to start drinking my tea.  Finally, Nami checked her FB + realized I'd been there for a while but she'd left + gone back home.  Soon, I got a call from a mysteriously blocked number, picked up + it was Nami, her voice like warm water.  Somehow, I'd walked right past her in front (I didn't know she smoked) because I didn't want to be any later than I already was.  I thought she'd come in + take a look.  She thought I'd forgotten.  Finally, on the phone she said:  --You wanna come + meet me in Andersonville?
--Sure, I said.  Actually, that's better anyway because I live in Rogers Park.
--What?  she asked.  God, why didn't we do that then?
--I dunno.
--I thought you lived in the burbs.  Why did I think that?
--God no.  I'd never live in the suburbs.  Too many soccer moms.
And then we decided I would take the Ashland bus Clark + Irving Park + she'd pick me up there, except for some reason I thought she'd said Ashland + Irving Park (since it was the Ashland bus), so I walked the wrong way on Ashland (my fucking phone kept telling me both directions were north, switching back + forth on my shitty new maps app).  When I finally got on the right bus, I texted Nami to tell her I was on.  Then I asked her if I was supposed to get off at Ashland + Irving Park cuz I couldn't remember.  8 minutes later I'd reached my destination + hadn't heard from her + started to wonder if I'd gotten off at the wrong stop.  Then I hung out at the corner of the above cross-street where there just happened to be an abandoned currency exchange which looked sketchy.  Drivers were giving me weird looks like, why is that dude hanging out there?  Does he know it's closed?  Is he gonna perform a dance routine for us?  I called Nami once or twice as I waited but she didn't pick up because she was driving--good for her.  So now I'm starting to think, fuck, did she get in a car accident?  Did she have an emergency?  Is she an amnesiac + she was like 1/2 there when she forgot why she was driving?  I had no idea what was going on, to be honest.  Then, Nami finally texted me + said she was almost there.  But when she told me I was supposed to meet her at Clark + Irving Park, I was like:  -- Fuck + started walking towards Clark.  But then she texted again + was like, I'll pick you up at Irving Park + Ashland, so then I had to turn around + go back to the abandoned currency exchange.  Finally she picked up + I wondered where 2 hours had gone.

Fast-forward to a little café in Edgewater.  I'll spare you most of the deetz (as my Friend Richard calls details), but a few of the highlights:

1.  I told Nami that she was the only person left on this planet who still has a club for her car.  That's when she explained that it had just recently been jacked.  It's like the perfect car for Asian gangstas to race down dark alleys, I told her.  She agreed.

2.  We talked about Nami's Granta story, "The Anniversary,"which I liked but didn't love.  But, I said, there was something devastating about the way the husband completely cut her out of his life.  And the proof that Nami is a really talented writer is that she was able to make me care for the wife even though she'd cheated on her husband.  Also, I gave her an invisible trophy for ending the story on the El station.  Which leads to the next point:

3.  When I told Nami that I thought she does a great job evoking Chicago in her Granta piece, she said she felt she doesn't consider herself a Chicago writer yet.  She said she has to earn that right, a comment which was repeated in a Chicago Tribune article written about her yesterday.  Then she mentioned "Stu" (Stuart Dybek) + how he's sort of the gold standard (gatekeeper?) of the Chicago writer, which got me thinking about my third novel I'll be working on once I'm done with my dissertation (it's about a bunch of Chicago prodigies) . . .

4.  Nami told me how John Freeman, the editor of Granta, like her earlier version of "The Anniversary," + didn't want a rewrite + how that was revelatory for her because she realized that other people can see merit/value in a piece that she may not even like

5.  She told me about the speech that she'd given for the Carl Sandburg Award in front of hoi polloi (many of them, hardcore Republicans) + how she'd talked about how she would never have become a novelist without government help, the public library, public restrooms, free clinics, public assistance, public universities, + government aid that helped her during tough times.  I was so happy for her + so proud of her.  And even more amazing, Rahm Emmanuel stood up + gave her a standing ovation, which had a domino effect on the audience.

6.  Then LB (my wife) met up with us + Nami gave her her complete + absolute attention, making LB feel comfortable + understood + appreciated.  She also thanked LB for supporting my art + also apologizing for our artistic narcissism.  I laughed hard at that.  That's when my respect/appreciation for Nami expanded exponentially.  I was thinking to myself:  --Lord, I fucking love this woman.  She's amazing.

7.  Finally, before she left, Nami turned to us + said:  --We should go on a double date sometime
--I'm down, I said.
LB smiled.  And that was that.

I may have had to work for this t2 (tea + talk),  but I have to say, it was completely worth it.  Nam Mun's for real, man.  She's spunky + she's cool + she's funny + she's smart + kinda blunt + completely real.  Looking forward to the next time.

Shout Outs from the Universe

Sometimes when I'm being really narcissistic + curious about the great big world, I'll google myself, hoping to find some secret Pushcart nomination I never knew about from years ago or another blog of someone who read one of my short stories (it happens, but never enough), which usually means stumbling on some insolent/ignorant comment from some unpublished, superopinionated anonymous poster who doesn't have the courage to use her/his real name but somehow knows everything about me + the industry.  But sometimes, self-googling reveals whispers of your own existence you really want to believe in + also educates you about rad websites you didn't even know existed before you pushed the search button.  The first is a review of my short story "30 Roofies" in the literary blog The Review Review. This story was originally published in Quarterly West + is part of my collection, Atlas of Tiny Desires.  In case you're not wearing your bifocals, here's a close-up of the paragraph about "30 Roofies":

While I don't find this blurbish story review to be particularly profound, I'm very grateful for the press + also appreciate the author's admiration.  Really, I'll take whatever coverage I can get when it comes to my own writing.  As Tom has told me many times, the only thing we're trying to do as aspiring writers is publish our shit + find our audience.  Boom.

Another blog I discovered after self-googling was Ruelle Electrique that reviews literary journals, books + video games, among other things (three things after my very own heart). Ruelle Electrique reviewed my short story "$67.00 for My Favorite Dictator," (retitled "A Full Cellar" by Howard Junker), which was published in the every-snazzy, always fantastic ZYZZYVA.  "$67.00 for My Favorite Dictator" is another story included in my short story collection, Atlas of Tiny Desires.  Again, if you don't have spidievision, feel free to read the follow close-up below.  Or not:

And lastly, I discovered last month that I was included in an amazing, on-going project at The Rumpus to identify the blog or website of practically every writer of color on the face of the earth, which is no small undertaking, let me tell you that.  While I know that I'm hapa, a lot of people I've met in my life don't give me that honor.  I mean, I still have Asian friends who think they're the only Asian in the room.  It just doesn't sink in for many people because I'm not legibly Japanese-American.  So, in a small, tiny way, I found it both amazing + encouraging to see so many writers of color in this world (+ growing all the time!), + I also found it slightly empowering to get acknowledgment for who I am at such a great literary website like The Rumpus, not just for what I look like to the world.  Here's my name, in between Jabarsi Asiam and Jacqueline Woodson:

David Mura Writes Back

I wrote David Mura a few weeks ago, author of recent poetry collection Angels of the Burning + novel Famous Suicides of the Japanese Empire (Coffee House Press), among other books, telling him I really admired/loved Where the Body Meets Memory + that I was planning on using part of it in the critical component of my dissertation I've been working on at SC.  Anyway, I'm included part of his response which he kindly sent me:

Dear Jackson

Thanks so much for your kind words about my work. It means a lot to me that someone like you is taking an interest in and writing about WTBMM. Your dissertation sounds like an interesting and exciting project (I have a friend who's also doing a dissertation combining scholarly and creative writing although her committee only allowed a chapter for the creative writing) . . .

Good luck with your work, and yes, if your novel is published, do hit me up for a blurb.

Good luck with your work.