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.

LA Times Festival of Books = Awesome

These past two weeks have been a blurry, pretty little mess of everything: Grading final portfolios, writing my final paper on Joan Didion for my Post-Western Representation class, waking up early on Saturday morning to go to the LA Times Festival of Books where I bought the new McSweeney's + Granta, attended a forum on literary journals with the editors of a Public Space, Granta, Black Clock + saw Tom read his short story, "The Lie." I also celebrated my--gasp!--37th birthday + went to Santa Monica with LB where we loitered around and smelled the Ocean air + bought a couple things for our upcoming trip to Beijing.

Here are a few highlights:

Gogo! Doing Yoga with his Daddy

LB's Genius for Gift-Wrapping

B-Day Vegan Cupcakes

Tomorrow! Tomorrow!

Proof that Part of America Still Reads Books

The Entrance to Bibliphilia

LB Magnetically Attracted to the Kinokuniya Kiosk

Where Cute Plastic Things Come to Be Reborn

Makes Me Dizzy

Tom Representing at the Bing Theater

Listening to the Enemy: Literary Journal Editors from Granta, A Public Space + Black Clock Tell You Why They Just Want a Good Story Even Though almost All of the Shit They Publish is Agented Fiction

The Endangered Species: Homo Literarius