New Orleans Archive

Dorothy may not be in Kansas anymore. But I am.

April 18th, 2011

Greetings from Emporia, Kansas!  The claim to fame of this small college town two hours South of Kansas City?  It’s the founding city of Veterans Day! Woohoo!  Party!!

Since my last update, I premiered CAT LADY in Houston.  It was exhausting, expensive, though went over extremely well.   Two and half years of hair-pulling and tens of thousands of dollars later culminated in a three day run that went by in a blink.  Yes yes, art is a journey, not a destination… I still felt like I crashed from the world’s most pricey heroin binge after the show closed. After feeling sorry for myself about the ephemeral nature of my work, I thought: Yes.  I did it.  I got it up.  The show got made.  It was to my liking.  And now I don’t have to sit in that never ending creative gestation period.  Hallelujah.  Time to have a private life!


I don’t much to say of the city of Houston because I barely saw it.  Touring hardly ever means getting to be a tourist.  I did meet one of my longtime blog readers who lives in Houston–Chris Lopez and his wife Lily.  They took me out to awesome sushi and even sent me money to make CAT LADY!  Lily was so cute and treated me like I was actually a celebrity, not just a woman who got her 15 minutes by getting dissed by James Franco. Shout out Chrisnlily!

Here’s some press on the show… 8 Asians, Culture Map, Yellow Magazine, and the Houston Entertainicle.  I also did an article for Sexy Voices of Hollywood which I have yet to listen to myself in.

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I went to New Orleans after the show closed. It was my first non-work related vacation in YEARS.  I really must schedule more vacations which is why I dropped five years of airline miles for a seven week trip I’m taking to Southeast Asia in the summer.  My first VISIONQUEST!   I’m excited now that I have six full length shows under my belt, four of which I can still tour.  I finally get to give myself a break and absorb life again.

New Orleans was wonderful.  I didn’t open my laptop once. Ignored most calls.  I just consumed, consumed, consumed.  Stayed at a private house via Airbnb just outside the Quarter and discovered all sorts of music clubs in the neighborhood.  I rode a bike to Lake Ponchartrain and as far out as the Lower Ninth Ward (btw, there’s still a lot of post-Katrina damage in New Orleans, keep them in your thoughts).   I didn’t call any friends in New Orleans.  I didn’t want to have any conversations about art or how my show went.  I just wanted to be an anonymous fat tourist, and I got my dream come true!

The best part about my Houston premiere?  It felt like I had finally taken the trash out on the last 2 1/2 years of my life.  The creative process sometimes stilts the passing of emotional trauma because I spend a lot of time trying to figure out what’s happening in my life and how to share it with an audience in a viewer friendly way.

Some people mark time by jobs, homes, kids they’ve had.  I mark the Dynasties of Wong Adult Life with my shows and creative projects.  There was the bigbadchinesemama.com Era (2000-2001), Emerging Voices Fellowship/Novel that has yet to get finished Era(2002), Miss Chinatown 2nd Runner-Up/ Flailing around Hollywood Era (2002-2003), Free? Era (2004-2006), and of course, the longest dynasty of them all Wong Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest Era (2006-2010, though THAT Era seems to keep leaking into the present).

I sent a lot of ugly to the stage in CAT LADY, found ways to reflect and transform it artfully and so it’s become something else I can manage and understand better.  What’s wrapped up in the Cat Lady era?  My existential crisis, bouts of depression from touring a show about suicide for four years, many empty hook-ups, and several failed relationships that includes a relationship I’ve not talked much about before on my blog…  a really traumatic relationship with a verbal abuser.

And somehow… I made it funny to watch.

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The only show I’ve allowed myself to get addicted to this season is Celebrity Apprentice. (I get addicted to shows quickly, so I choose from hulu carefully.)   I hate the idea of celebrities playing for charity, and how one charity wins per episode, but that’s Hollywood and capitalism and amazing drama.  Anyhow… I started crying when Nene Leakes bursts into tears in the boardroom.  She was the Project Manager and her team was at risk of losing (and they did) and she confesses to The Donald that she wanted her domestic violence charity to win because it’s a cause that hits home.  Nene, Latoya Jackson and Marlee Matlin (who I’m quickly becoming a superfan of and is my pick to win) all admitted to Trump to being a abusive relationships.  (Of course, the following episode Nene goes off on a verbally humiliating tirade on Latoya…  rather ironic considering Nene’s cause…)

Trump’s Obama birth certificate antics aside — I find Celebrity Apprentice a fascinating opportunity for always under-documented social issues to have a bigger presence.  And while I’d rather nobody have had to experience it, felt somewhat comforted that these “celebrities” were so openly admitting their domestic violence experiences because the subject of domestic violence I had considered shameful to share publicly.

As brazen as I seem to be about sharing my personal life with strangers, I’m pretty guarded about speaking openly about private experiences I’ve had with violence.  And I’m especially private about talking about my relationships, I usually just hide under the persona of the tough talk funny perpetually single cat lady.

But I’m feeling more and more compelled to share with strangers that I survived and escaped a verbally abusive relationship not too long ago.  I want to “come out” about this because domestic violence is unfortunately not that uncommon.  And domestic violence victims are rich, poor, educated, not educated and come in all colors.    I am hearing that many of my friends have been in abusive relationships. One friend’s experience was so extreme that she had things thrown at her while pregnant and had to run into hiding with her son.

I never knew what it meant to be in an abusive relationship or even thought that I could be in one.  My friends work for social justice non-profits and so I’m constantly educated on equity, I’ve read a million and a half books on self empowerment (I’m married to myself for Christsakes), and this verbal abuser was someone I was introduced to through friends who (I thought) had my best interests in mind.

What I thought was a runaway romance quickly became a Lifetime Made for TV movie.  He’d keep me up in the middle of the night, screaming at me, berating me, picking fights with me as I tried to sleep.   He’d yell constantly at me, sometimes in public– yelling was his volume of choice.  He’d control parts of my life  and my behaviors by constantly correcting me.  I was terrified what would happen if I didn’t follow his demands carefully, and found myself lying to friends to avoid situations where I’d incorrectly perform his directives.   My secrets, my family members, my shows– were all the subjects of his cruel put-downs.   I knew something wasn’t right when I began to compile a list of who I could call to rescue me if he ever got out of hand.  It got to the point that he was called me every derogatory word imaginable as he almost drove me off the road  and then threw a can of soda at me– that’s when it was clear I had to get out of the relationship.

As it turns out, the person who introduced us knew he was unstable and had a history of psychological meltdowns (one that actually got him fired by the same person who introduced us… a minor detail that would have been nice to know earlier). I actually hung out as long as I did (eight months) because I thought:  “We’re of the same community of friends, so this is supposed to work, I’m supposed to endure this.  This yelling is just him being passionate.  My friends would not put me in a dangerous situation right?”  He would call me names until I cried.  It was his way of making sure I was still emotionally invested in him– if I could take his anger and still come back to him, then he had control and my love.  Sick sick sick.  And so characteristic of verbal abusers.

I’ve read that violent unstable people prey on people like me who do live ambitiously and pursue our joys– artists and activists. I think this verbal abuser thought I’d fix his miserable life– he was not in a profession that made him happy.  Nor was he courageous enough to travel, let alone, clean his room in over five years.   But I couldn’t fix the fundamental misery of his life.  In general, nobody comes into your life to fix things.  I have learned that when you enter a relationship, you need to COME CORRECT not broken like my last partner.  A good relationship is one that inspires, not compromises.  And I was not inspired. I was scared.

As I finally move past that chapter in my life, I am becoming more vocal of sharing with audiences and friends that I am a survivor of domestic violence, specifically verbal abuse.  And it’s been a very long and heartbreaking road to recovery.  Over a year out of that relationship, and I’m just learning I’m not this piece of crap person who does everything wrong. That I am actually quite an amazing person.  And yes, that I do deserve to be loved by someone who is brave enough to love without cruelty.  And yes, that I need to screen these candidates WAY better.  And yes, there are actually nice people in the world who know how to be generous and act without anger.

We live in a world where the angry customer gets their way (though now, selfish corporations trump them).  Where democracy can only be achieved by violent upheaval of the government.  Where cat fights don’t get the ratings that fist tossing bar room brawls do.  Violence is embedded in our personal and global histories.  It’s how change is incited.

Even in the Asian American community, domestic violence is commonplace.  Unfortunately, it’s shameful to talk about it and so women are suffering silently rather than reporting it.  Some (not all) Asian men think that it’s ok to yell at women.  That girlfriends and wives are “property.”

As an artist,  I was not seeking an abusive relationship.  But I was broken.  I was depleted from touring a show about suicide and needed comfort.  I needed someone to be my rock.  I was tired of dating broke people that I was always underwriting.  I saw in this verbal abuser someone who might be my rock in my continued pursuit of a financially tricky and emotionally draining profession.  Instead, I was bait and switched, pummeled with words, and knocked way off my horse until I was forced to figure out who I was again.

He did not take me away though.  And I am learning that it is possible to be brave and love again.  First myself.  Then someone else.  Someone who comes correct and has earned the privilege of my love.

It is actually possible to be in a relationship where loving communication does not happen with screaming, verbal humiliation, threatening gestures, throwing things, hitting, intimidation, forced sex or hurting. It might take a few tries to find a partner brave enough to act with kindness (or to even find it within yourself), but it’s possible. Love can suck, but it is not supposed to hurt.

(Wow, quite a lot of revelation for having been in Kansas for just one day!)

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Category: a shot at love with kristina wong, artist life., balance, Blog, cat lady, empowerment, i'm kristina wong, New Orleans, vision

It was so easy back in the Big Easy.

December 14th, 2007

It’s been over a week since my New Orleans trip and after been brain fried doing arts admin at the Los Feliz Starbucks for SIX STRAIGHT HOURS, I finally had to tell myself to cool it by doing something somewhat fun and slightly creative. It’s ice cold in here by the way. I have a scarf wrapped around my head and neck.

Well, things in life could be worse. I could be a contestant on a bisexual dating show on MTV trying to vie for the love of an internet model. By the way, I cannot wait until the finale tonight! I hope Tila picks Dani!

***

Well, here is the blog from my trip to New Orleans from what I can remember. And it ain’t much….

So the reason I was in New Orleans was because the National Performance Network gave me a “Creation Fund” in 2006 to create my solo show. They have an annual meeting for NPN supported artists and presenters each year to talk about cultural policy,etc. It’s really great to come to these because I feel so isolated in Los Angeles in the aesthetic of work that I create. And it’s great to be with other fringe artists in a setting where we can talk and network as equals. So translation? Drinking and Partying, and watching theater with friends can equal work!

The NPN is based in New Orleans and already had the conference scheduled for her even before Katrina. But they offered this “Site Visit” of New Orleans to conference goers who showed up a day early. I’m glad I went because otherwise, in the distance from the airport to the hotel, I would have left NOLA thinking, “Oh wow, it’s all been fixed up.”


In ways, it’s subtle. It just looks like there might have always been that much space between houses. And there are parts of the 9th ward where you can’t even tell there were houses because it’s just big fields.

Performance by Kathy Randels in the home she grew up that was destroyed by the hurricane.

A photo album on display in Kathy’s home where the photos have all been washed clean.

One night we went to see “New Orleans Bingo”– they are a most awesome lounge music jazz band. They play bingo with the audience and show films between their sets. I’ve never seen so much technology in a live music bar show. I am absolutely in love with them.

Cute Southern boy singing on a bike? Preservation Hall? The French Quarter? I’m totally in love! I swear this is my dream music video!

I watched another band called “Country Fried” and the best thing about this show was the black Santa on the wall. Yay Black Santa!


A slightly less crowded Bourbon St.

Before our oceans go to total shit, I thought I’d try out raw oysters. I was sweaty and terrified, but now I’m a pro. Ironically, oysters are cheaper at the NOLA airport than at in the French Quarter. Same size and taste!

So now, on my long list of fantasies is trying to get out to NOLA for a month to live and work and ride bikes in the French Quarter.

***
So I’m not gunning for sympathy but I just spent the last hour crying alone in my apartment because I’m so tired by this life. Also it’s raining in LA which is totally traumatizing for us who live here. New Orleans was the highlight of the last few months. It’s just really hard to do this art and art living all alone. And I feel so isolated sometimes. And I wish I had an au pair… someone to pick me up dust me off and take care of me between these road trips. I just feel like all I ever do is give and give and give and give and watch Flavor of Love reruns.

My friend Marcus said he’d come by this weekend and help me. He said I should do something fun like go on a website where I can insert my face into different hairstyles. I like that.

So I have a whole new attitude towards art making in this new leg of my artist life. I think I really want to try to have fun making art. I think what I’ve struggled with doing this as a profession, is that it loses it’s “fun-ness.” I think that’s why I got so into knitting, bikes, and other weird obsessions in the last few years. Art becomes a different animal when you have to make a living doing it.

Fun. Who’s coming?

Surprisingly, despite finally being a successful full time artist, I still slip into that whole, “Should I just get a real job?” train of thought sometimes because I miss the regularness of waking up in the same bed every day with the same routine. Being able to see friends after work and that kind of stuff. I only had a part time job once as an adult that was not related to art. It was working for a non-profit for all of eight months (or less? Can’t remember), but it was so awesome to be able to go home and not think about anything but watching a movie and eating.

Those were the days.

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Category: artist life., New Orleans

The Dirty South

December 6th, 2007

I’m in New Orleans for the National Performance Network Meeting. I’m here until Monday. At these conferences they usually have showcases every evening but they’ve scheduled all the performances to happen all day Saturday. I think this is because we are across the street from the Harrah’s Casino and nothing will get done when there is a casino and a French Quarter to wander away to. Already in one night, I managed to hit happy hour, Mother’s (my favorite restaurant), the W Hotel, Cafe Du Monde and I helped my friend Regie win $7.41 in the penny slots.


The shrimp and lobster po’boy from Mother’s. I swear it will be another three days before I come close to eating a vegetable.

They’ve managed to “clean up” the whole area from the airport to Downtown– and purposely so. If you didn’t know about Katrina, you might not guess anything happened. I got chills passing the Superdome and remembering the stories of people jumping to their death, getting assaulted, and shit piling up in the toilets there. The French Quarter is a lot more corporate than I remember it, it’s a little like an outdoor mall and eerily like Third Street Promenade. And I don’t remember this place being so “slick around the edges.”

We’re going on a bus tour in an hour of the parts of New Orleans that most tourists will miss. Should be interesting.

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Category: artist life., New Orleans