Bilingual dogs

This entire working-from-vacation thing is already getting on my nerves.

Fire tricks

I'm feeling better. The most exciting day of any trip is the night before: you read articles on where to stay, what to expect. Although I've been to New York numerous times, this would be my first time to tag along my wife and son, and I know it's going to be a trip of a lifetime.

So here I am, reading an article from Guernica about that distinct intimacy fathers and sons share that goes out the window as soon as the son becomes aware or conscious of how father-son relationships actually work:

With my son, I say I will miss the kissing when it ends, but that may not be true. I know it’s the right and sentimental thing for fathers of my generation, our era, to say. But it’s also the fearful thing to say, like, “They grow up so fast,” which only means that I’m getting older, more quickly it seems.

I was talking to my wife about how bittersweet fatherhood is: for my son, I'm technically a second-rate citizen when my wife's around--i.e., all the time--and a third-rate citizen when we're with relatives who spoil and shower my son with praises. Third-rate citizens are not afforded with any kind of intimacy; in his book, I'm technically a nobody. Rarely do I become a first-rate citizen, save for those days when I work from home, when I get to fetch him from school, when I allow him to bike outside for thirty minutes, when the two of us spend time in a coffee shop, where his attention is all mine.

I think this rings true when I was younger, too: my mother comes first even after she left for the States, when I was a mere ten year-old. My father filled in the gap tentatively, and it was only when I started my life in college when I finally understood him. This was a gradual realization, and I owe it up to our similarities: aside from the physical resemblances (that receding hairline!) he was (and probably is) a frustrated writer, according to my mom - which explains his implicit acts of dissuading me to write. We also share similar behaviors and attitudes in life: for one, we're essentially cheapskates that would rather scrimp to give way to our vices and luxuries. (We even call these our "one-time, big-time" purchases.)

For some reason it takes a lot of time for a son to find a way to love his father: it almost always starts with denial, or in some cases, rejection. Now that I'm a father, I hate to say that it pains me to see my childhood through my father's lenses - it's like forcing myself to soak my face in a pensieve. The big question: is there a way to make things right, or make up for the lost time?

Xin chao

In the bathroom, soaked in warm water spiked with epsom salts, the four year-old chanting: Vietnamese, Vietnamese, Vietnamese.

425 elephants flying in the sky

Every now and then I try to remind myself - sometimes to the point of scaring myself - of death, of life's choose-your-own-adventure! attitude at finding your purpose, and of the sheer luck that I am still a living, breathing human being in the age of late capitalism. I think of bizarre car accidents, of endless convoluted dreams - the kind where you thought you already woke up only to figure out after a couple of years that you actually died in your sleep - or of surprisingly inane lumps or aches from unknown causes that would soon become my death sentence.

It was easy to think of these years ago. I didn't have a wife and a kid. I only had myself and the pent-up angst of a nineteen year-old pothead. So naturally, I thought I will be fine, and that people's lives after my death is going to be fine - maybe a really small wake tuned to a hipster playlist, a cremation. But death meant going back to where I was before I was born, wherever that is.

I used to have this worldview - and share this with a set of friends - that everything is futile. What's the word? Nihilist. 

Although having a kid and a wife in tow gave me a new reason to live - that I have to work and support them as much as they support me - there still are days, mostly nights, when I sit back and think: what's the point? Maybe the whole point of life is scaring yourself to death so you kind of urge yourself to finally arrive at a purpose - no matter how haphazard or frivolous. 

At times like these I turn to memes and disreputable facts from the Internet, one of which was from my wife. She said, and this was seven years ago: The only time a hug can make a huge difference is if you hug someone for 16 long seconds. The number itself is magical: 16, a number plucked from some trivia book? (Although maybe, just maybe, this is how we find comfort in fake news?) It has always struck me since then: how it's not 15 - or 20 seconds.

She always wondered how I still remember this tidbit seven long years ago. I'm sure it has to do with the 16 seconds - and I quote Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who said in Paris Review: "If you say that there are elephants flying in the sky, people are not going to believe you. But if you say that there are four hundred and twenty-five elephants flying in the sky, people will probably believe you."

Somehow, it takes a long hug - 16 seconds, to be exact - to finally calm myself down.


There's something astounding about the idea of your four year-old son telling you about his dream. Is making a sentient being capable of dreaming an achievement? Maybe.

He dreamt that 1) he was a college student when he found a Lego store and bought so many Legos; 2) he dreamt that he was a girl! 3) he was a driver and that he had a driver's license waiting for the car wash.