New strategy

Alright, I’m trying something new (again). I’m thinking that I should have done this ages ago. Basically, now you can see examples of my writing AND a widget to donate money towards my living/moving expenses to Roanoke. This is obviously much improved over the idea that a person will go to fundable and then go to my blog to read my writing. Not many people have the patience to do that.

Anyway, if you’re up to it, feel free to donate a dollar or something. The good thing about chipin is that there’s no minimum donation (I hope).

Also, here are some facts about why I’m not eligible for loans and cannot get a job. Here is a list (ongoing) about jobs I’ve applied for recently.

What else can I tell you? There were a lot of arguments for and against donating to my cause on the MFA Blog. The main reason why I want to go to Hollins is that it will benefit me in the long run. With an MFA degree (which is considered an advanced degree no matter how ironic it sounds), I am more qualified for higher education jobs (such as teaching at the university level), and can possibly be sponsored for an employment visa.

I also get the chance to write for two years, and to take part in workshops with other people who consider themselves serious writers. Furthermore, the MFA process is great for networking, as I’ve met many people during the last eight months, people who are committed to writing and supporting other writers. For me, this is just as important as the degree and the writing itself.

As ridiculous and far-fetched as it sounds, in the back of my mind I’m still staying positive about the idea that I might win the $10k Norman Mailer writing prize,the results of which I should be finding out within the next couple of weeks.


Tonight, my housing complex lost power twice. The first time, at 7pm, wasn’t too bad because the sun had not yet set. I went out to get coffee, and when I came back the power was back on. The second, after midnight, came after I heard a helicopter flying overhead. Our complex spans a full block suddenly turned dark. An impermeable darkness settled in the interior courtyards, and the flashlights of strangers in the parking lot looked like unwelcome intruders. My mother lit candles.

I walked out of the apartment and down the stairs, away from the courtyard into the street running behind. The lights were on, and to my left, in the middle of the street, a girl was having an intense conversation with a guy in a jeep liberty. As I neared them, a white utility truck with flashing lights came around the corner. The girl flattened herself against the jeep, looking ridiculous in the reflected orange glow. The truck edged past and drove off towards the parking lot on the other side of the apartments.

Trieste Two

“Hey buddy,” he says each time I walk into the cafe.

The building is situated on the southwest corner of Dwight and San Pablo with a column supporting its front corner. It’s a rather awkward architectural design, because you have to avoid the column on your way in and out. Outside, on San Pablo, there is a bus stop directly adjacent to the building, and also the aforementioned sex shop and fancy restaurant. Across the street is Cafe Gratitude, or some other such liberally named establishment. On the opposing corner diagonally across the street is a liquor store, where Teddy usually takes an old shopping cart to buy ice by the twenty pound bag.

Cafe Trieste has several tables lining the San Pablo side of the building where the usual locals (a tall older man with a cap who looks like a disheveled construction worker) smoke and drink house wine. The tables are next to several bay windows which are often open in warm weather.

The cafe itself seats thirty people at most. On days when Papa Gianni is present signing opera, there is a standing-room-only crowd which spills out onto the sidewalk. People stand inside, some with cameras, listening to Papa Gianni (who must be at least 80) belt out traditional opera and watching him down cups of espresso. Whenever he’s there, I tend to walk in and order a quick vanilla latte to go before heading back to my apartment. Papa Gianni’s appearance always deters me from studying at the cafe.

I come to the cafe late at night to read and watch people sit around and drink wine. The cafe also has a delectable assortment of pastries and cakes. My favorite is the white chocolate cheesecake. When I started to run out of money and food, Sam would give me free coffee and food whenever I showed up. I’m still amazed at his generosity.

Jobs I’ve applied for recently

Wouldn’t you be angry if after all the time you spent trying to improve your situation, you were told that you’re worthless?

I am.

I’ll continue to add to this list as testament to the fact that I am actually looking for work, not just talking about it.

Production Assistant
2nd Assistant Director
Location Scout
Dog sitter
Russian tutor
English tutor
Event Assistant
Party Helper


There seems to be some confusion regarding my legal status. Here are some facts:

I’m 25 years old and currently undocumented. If all goes well, I’ll be 30 when I get my green card. I’ve lived in the US since I was 11. There are several ways to expedite the petition process:

The first: I can get married to a US citizen. This is the quickest, as well as the stupidest option, unless I marry someone for love. It is illegal to marry for green cards. Who wants to marry me!?

The second: I can have an employer petition for me, at which point I will work for said employer until I receive a green card. This option is not readily available to me because employers have to prove that they could not hire a qualified US citizen for the same position. Because I only have a BA (two actually), employers can still prove that I’m not better than most American hires.

The third: President Obama can sign the DREAM Act into law, giving me immediate conditional permanent residency because I attended and graduated from a US high school as well as graduated from college.

The fourth: The USCIS (immigration service) can work to speed up the processing of visas available for immigrants, as well as give me back my original dependent petition priority date, which was in 2001 (the date my parents applied for green cards for the whole family). Currently, my priority date is in November 2007, when my independent petition was submitted by my parents. The current priority date set by USCIS is in January 2003. Once the USCIS priority date reaches November 2007, I’ll be eligible to receive a visa, and following that, a green card. The priority date is supposed to move month by month, but sometimes it regresses.

I came to the US legally. I’m undocumented because my visa expired and I aged out (turned 21) before my parents received their green cards. Therefore, I wasn’t eligible for a green card as a dependent. My sister received her green card because she was a dependent at the time their petition was accepted.

I’m ineligible for federal financial aid, government grants, various scholarships, and I’m unable to get any loans because I need a US citizen cosigner. I’m also unable to legally work unless an employer is willing to sponsor my petition for permanent residency.

Hope that settles some confusion.


I dreamt about JJ a couple of days ago, woke up and thought I’d actually seen her. Then I realized it had been a dream. The subconscious is a powerful element. How else do you explain a vivid dream where everything she says sounds perfectly logical, where I hear her laugh and see her smile and feel her hugs. I don’t even know how many weeks it has been since we’ve spoken. Like X said, I’m in the moment of remembering the good moments now.

Dreaming reminds me of Murakami. More importantly, dreaming reminds me of the DREAM Act and immigration reform, which I’ve mistakenly stopped mentioning on this blog. Please do some research on immigration reform and support the DREAM Act. For many undocumented students such as myself, it’s the only chance for a better life. At the rate my immigration petition is moving through the system, I’ll be 30 years old by the time I get a green card. I’d have been in the US for 20 years; two-thirds of my life would have been spent in California.

A couple of my Bay Area friends stopped by on the way home from the San Diego Comic Con. It’s been several months since we’ve seen each other. The last time was the Tuesday before I left Berkeley. I’d gone to San Francisco to see them and we ended up going to a Ramen restaurant in Japantown, on Post and Laguna, then drove to the Sunset to go to a Japanese dessert cafe. Today, we went to Subway and had a good hour all together before they left to drive the five hours to SF. It’s a shame Richard went to Japan and didn’t come to SDCC. Chris and Luke more than made up for his absence though. They’re wonderful people and they make me realize how lucky I’ve been to meet them.

Shots of Saturday and Sunday morning

For once, I’ve been writing. Sometimes I don’t realize how easy it is to write nonfiction, and how difficult it is to create something out of nothing.

I only have to look back a few days for material for whatever nonfiction piece I’ve been writing. X called me: she’s breaking up with the boyfriend who owes her money and sounds like a creep. Of course, this is just the side of the story that she gives now that they’re in a rough spot. Nevertheless, I can’t help worrying that when she returns to Iowa, she’s going to somehow get physically hurt. It doesn’t help that she has no friends there this year.

We went to Zuma beach on Wednesday. She’s not a good driver. For one, when she tries to merge, she spends way too long looking in the sideview mirror while accelerating. Normal people take a quick look in the mirror and then look straight ahead as they merge. Do you know what this means? It means that if the car in front of us hit the brakes while she’s accelerating to merge, we’d be dead.

More later…


Once, I’d have walked out of my apartment, turned left down Bonar Street (don’t even think about making that joke again), turned right at Dwight Way, walked three blocks to San Pablo Avenue, and I’d be there – Cafe Trieste, on the west side of San Pablo. It’s a tiny place often filled with locals.

The original Cafe Trieste was opened in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco by Papa Gianni, an Italian immigrant who came to the US in the 1950s. It’s still open today, just one block up Columbus from the City Lights bookstore, on Vallejo Street. The Berkeley location has been open for a while; it is filled with photographs of famous people, as well as Papa Gianni himself – standing on a Navy ship in the 1940s, singing opera at the San Francisco location – some days there’s a low key jazz band or Papa Gianni himself, singing opera on special occasions.

Fridays through Mondays, Sam runs the counter. Sam is a Sri Lankan who goes to college in San Francisco. He’s been working here for seven years, and he’s the one I always greet. When I began frequenting Cafe Trieste in February, the locals were intimidating, crowding around the old-fashioned wooden counter, shooting the shit. Gradually, I made friends with Sam and Teddy, a Massachussetts transplant who also works at a fancy restaurant two doors down. In between Cafe Trieste and the fancy restaurant is a fancy sex shop, windows covered with white film for privacy. If you walk by and look inside, it looks like a sort of library, completely unlike a sex shop.

Every time I walk in, Sam grins from behind the counter and reaches over to shake my hand.

What I should be doing instead

I should be responding to lovely emails from people I’ve never met. I should be writing a short story for the Esquire fall fiction contest. I should be writing something to get me through the next month, to submit to journals across the nation. But all I’m doing is sitting here, eating ice cream with strawberries and drinking milk. I’m thinking about Murakami and the novels I’ve read so far.

If I could recommend one Murakami novel I’d recommend “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.” “Norwegian Wood” would be a close second, but it’s only the beginning of his mythology and his motifs. At the same time, “Norwegian Wood” has a concrete narrative, something “Wind-Up” decisively lacks.

I’m frustrated by his tendency to constantly reuse thematic material. The winding of the spring and the well motif are used in both “Norwegian Wood” and “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.” In “Norwegian Wood,” both are underdeveloped, as if Murakami was experimenting with a new idea. In “Chronicle,” they are extrapolated to their full potential. The bird statue is used in both “Chronicle” and “A Wild Sheep Chase.”

All three novels feature loss, dreams, the difference between consciousness and unconsciousness, a search, women who are more interesting than the male narrator, an underachieving male narrator, women who leave or are lost, an escape from “civilized/normal society,” and lest I forget, jokes at the expense of the reader, mostly in the form of allusions and references to Western society which go over the head of the average reader. There are also fragmented narratives, sexual episodes described in graphic detail, nostalgic references, references to Japanese history, and examples of surrealism and magical realism.

If you want Murakami at his most developed, read “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.” While it leaves many basic questions unanswered, it is the most complete compendium of his stylistic devices and motifs. Or maybe you could read him in chronological order to find out how the motifs develop, because that’s a very interesting way to read an author.

I wouldn’t recommend reading backwards from “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.” In fact, I would say read “Norwegian Wood” and then read “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle” to see an expansion on the thematic material presented in “Norwegian Wood.”

Do not read Murakami as a representation of contemporary Japanese culture. There’s almost nothing Japanese about his work, besides the fact that most of it is set in Japan and Manchuria.