About jp 吉平

john patrick | 吉平 is a former superhero from seattle | usa

Getting Credit for Asking

Back home in Seattle, I was the happy hour coordinator for a while. Every week I would send an email to the whole company, saying to meet me at a certain happy hour in town, everybody is invited, bring whoever you want; it’s just happy hour. I would always try to make the email entertaining by including a cute cat photo and an outlandish claim about a colleague; a little something for people to look forward to.

At first, it was weird. Seattle people are not used to open, standing invitations to happy hour. People would pull me aside and ask me discreetly who was invited; they’d RSVP (it’s on open invitation), or apologize profusely for not being able to make it. What I found most striking was that people were so thankful for me to writing this email every week with an open invitation and a cute cat photo. More than once, someone found a quiet moment to pull me aside and thank me for “what I was doing for the community.” For my part, I just wanted to go to happy hour. But not once did someone complain about me spamming their email.

It made me realize that people love to be invited to stuff. Even if they can’t make it, they still want the invitation.

So I do this thing now, where I invite people to join me in what I’m doing. It doesn’t matter if they live too far away, or if I know they have kids to pick up, or if I know that they don’t like sushi or superhero movies or karaoke; it doesn’t matter, I just invite them.  I invite people I don’t necessarily like. I invite people whom I know for a fact do not like me.

The worst that can happen is that they say yes, and I’ll have company for a little bit. I’ve been surprised several times by unlikely colleagues at happy hour. I’ve gone to foot massages with whole academic departments. Of course, karaoke nights are vastly improved by random unlikely participants who show up just because they were invited. Earlier this year, a coworker asked me what I was doing for February break; I said, “I’m going to Seattle, you’re welcome to join me.”  To my surprise my coworker accepted, and we ended up hanging out together in Seattle for a few days; I don’t regret it even slightly.

Of course, the most likely scenario is that people decline the invitation. They live too far; they have to pick up the kids, they don’t like sushi or karaoke or superhero movies. They can’t make it. But my theory has been that they still enjoy getting invited. They can’t make it, but I still get credit for asking.

There are, of course, people who get stressed out by the recklessness of my invitations, who feel bad about declining. Or sometimes they are annoyed that they have to make an excuse because they really don’t want to spend time with me. Look, I get it, I’m not always a picnic. But if someone has to resent me, let them resent me for asking them along to see a movie that I, myself, want to see anyway. They can say no. In fact, most of the time, I’m fully expecting them to say no; I still get credit for asking.

Lately I’ve been explicit about “getting credit for asking,” especially if they seem overly remorseful or if they go into too much detail about the reasons for the decline. “Oh well,” I say, ” at least I get credit for asking,” and hopefully my interlocutor gets the message that it’s not that big of a deal.

I was thinking about it the other day, and realized I might over-invite people due to my own insecurity about not getting invited.  A few posts ago, I stated the rule, “If I wasn’t invited, it’s none of my business.” When I posted that it wasn’t because it’s a rule that I always follow; it’s a rule I wish I could follow. It’s me trying to tell myself to not be sensitive about not getting invited.  I wish I could block out the sting of being left out of the fun. I wrote it to remind myself.

For the most part, I think spend most of my adulthood made of teflon, and I don’t worry about feeling left out; that stuff rolls off of me. But once in a blue moon, I feel less like teflon and more like an exposed nerve, and on those days I just wish people would invite me.

The worst that could happen is that I’d say yes.

Narration exercise: Toy Helicopter

My Honors Spanish II class is studying narration in the past with the pretérito and the imperfecto. As an exercise, I give them a story with the verbs underlined, and it’s their job to conjugate the verbs in the correct tense. Here’s a short story I wrote for them as an exercise, it’s called “Toy Helicopter.”

De niño, Juan Patricio era muy precioso y nada travieso.  Siempre obedecía a sus papás y a su abuelita. Se sabía muchas canciones y le gustaba cantarlas a su abuelita y sus tíos.  No tenía amigos o primos de su edad, entonces siempre jugaba con los adultos.  

Un día de navidad, Juan Patricio recibió un regalo tremendo. Fue un juguete: ¡un helicóptero en miniatura que volaba! Estaba muy ilusionado sentado al lado de su papá, mientras que su papá armaba el helicóptero.  

Después de armar el helicóptero en miniatura, el papá de Juan Patricio le dijo, “yo voy primero y tú después.” Entonces el papá se tomó el control remoto del helicóptero en miniatura y empezó a jugar, haciendo en círculos en el aire de la sala, parándolo en el aire en medio vuelo, aterrizando y despegando una y otra vez.  Juan Patricio se sentaba al lado de su papá, muy ilusionado, con muchas ganas de jugar con el control remoto también. Le pidió el control remoto a su papá, pero su papá no quería dárselo. “Es peligroso,” le decía.  

Juan Patricio quería jugar con su helicóptero pero su papá no se lo dejaba. Juan Patricio empezó a llorar en silencio, secándose las lágrimas con la manga de su pijama amarillo rayado.  Luego, empezó a sollozar. Su papá se dio cuenta y le regañó. “¡Ya deja de llorar!” le dijo, enojado.  

“¡Es que es mío el juguete, y yo quiero jugar!”

Su papá se levantó y se fue a su habitación y cerró la puerta, enojado que su hijo llorara. Juan Patricio se quedó solo con su juguete. Por fin podía jugar. Hizo unos tristes círculos con el helicóptero; sollozando, lo paró en el aire en medio vuelo, aterrizando y despegando una y otra vez, todavía sollozando. Se sentía triste y abandonado. Jugó sollozando unos minutos más, y luego regresó el helicóptero en miniatura a su caja y se fue a la cama.

Givers and Takers

A decade ago, back in 2009, Shawn of the Bread, my best friend from 7th grade, came to visit me in Shanghai. It was fun, we goofed around and I yelled at a cab driver. Kiwi J gave him the name “Shawn of the Bread” and we reminisced about middle school.

I remember telling Shawn of the Bread about a particularly difficult time I was having with T, someone who had been a close friend but at the time, not so much. It was a long and twisted narrative about betrayal and sabotage. Shawn of the Bread listened closely, and at the end, he said, “sounds like T is a taker.”  I didn’t quite understand.

“There are givers, and there are takers. You’re a giver,” he said, pointing to me, “and that T is a taker.”

At the moment, I remember thinking that analysis was way too simplistic.  Of course, I enjoyed the part where I was the giver–i.e, the good guy–and the other guy was a taker–the bad guy, but I didn’t find the analysis all that useful.

However, I immediately incorporated that binary concept into my own assessment of other people. Givers were generous and takers were selfish and greedy. I started thinking of everyone I knew as givers or takers, nice people or toxic people.

It’s a decade later, and Shawn of the Bread’s theory of “givers and takers,” is fully incorporated into how I see other people, but my understanding is has evolved.  I now understand “givers” and “takers” in terms of energy.  Now I realize there are certain people who energize me; these are the givers. Similarly, there are takers who take energy away from me; either I spend energy to be with them or they’re actively sucking energy away from me.

Obviously I’d rather be around givers, and I’d rather see myself as a giver. Obviously.  On my best days, for the majority of people, I think I am a giver. I hope I am.

Here’s the hard part; sometimes I know I’m a taker. I know people have to spend energy on me. Sometimes I feel myself actively sucking the energy away from them.  I don’t like it, but I see it happening, and I’m not always sure how to stop it.  Those are bad days.  That’s not who I want to be.

Back in Shanghai, I didn’t know how to respond Shawn of the Bread’s analysis about givers and takers. Now I see that back then, with T,  I was a taker.

So what do I do?  On days like those, I have to figure out how to be a giver again.




I’m a Friolento Now

1c1beee3-38b7-4be1-afd8-eae6f766ba96Last night my I went with R to glacial town of Idyllwild, California, where the temperature was an arctic 55ª Fahrenheit, easily thirty degrees colder than where I was down in the desert valley. I had prepared for the cold; long pants and a hoodie!  Up in the town the Californians were protected from the frigid alpine conditions by heating elements; electric rods in the ceilings and standing gas flame heaters among the tables.  I envied the tourists with knit caps and puffy jackets.

giphy-259Anyway, on the drive back down, I was cold, so I asked R if I could turn on the heater in his car. He was driving on dark, winding, two-lane roads, so I took the liberty of cranking the heat all the way to high so he could keep his eyes on the road and his hands at ten and two. We drive for ten or fifteen minutes talking about life and the universe, and suddenly he busts in with, “CAN YOU PLEASE TURN DOWN THE HEAT, YOU F*ING FRIOLENTO,” I looked over and he was in Stage 11 heat stroke, ready to pass out, his skin as red as a apple and a faint smell of pork roast. I was puzzled because I was just finally starting to feel warm again; and also rather pleased, since I was the one who taught him that word “friolento;” someone who is wimpy about the cold, and there he was using it properly in context.

So yes, I did turn down the heat, so my friend wouldn’t suffer. Not all the way down, because brr, but then he asked me a second time, so I went max AC and handed him a cold compress. Drama.

I moved to the Desert in 2016, and the heat was just oppressive; I didn’t know how I was going to survive it. It was so hot, it made everything ugly.

I was very surprised, however at how quickly I adjusted and became a friolento. I think it was a matter of a couple of months. My classroom usually felt comfortably warm, but when we’d have to go upstairs for a faculty meeting, my teeth were chattering. When we had Mass upstairs, I would warn people sternly to bring a sweater. When the outside temps get up in to the 90s (we consider that a cooler temperature here) I start keeping a hoodie in the car, to have with me just in case I have to go into a store or an office. People here keep their air conditioning set to “ice cream.” It’s so cold, lobsters and crabs start get visibly lethargic when they enter the dentist’s office.

So yah, I’m a friolento now.  I wonder how long it will take me to adjust, when I move back to Seattle, Washington in the fall of this year, to start the new job I just committed to yesterday. I wonder if I’ll feel cold when it rains. I wonder if I will crave the sunshine.

Nah!  I’m glad I kept all my flannel shirts.  I wonder if they’ll let me teach in them…

d2f6814a-633d-4cb3-ae84-1522c04dec6a-large16x9_9056ac56f2c04953a7f55bb7fcc3032blarge16x9_kennytaungIn case you’re wondering, the drive to Idyllwild and back was very scenic. I was glad to go and see it all for first time, and glad to celebrate the new job.


Note to Self: Manage the Blues

tenorDear future self,

You’ve had the blues before and you’ll probably have them again. Usually, you forget what to do as you start to feel sad, and the logic and focus that you usually count on starts turning in circles like a dog chasing its own tail. Here’s a list of things you can do to break that exhausting cycle. Think of it as your Sad Day Emergency Kit.

  • Go to the beach. I have no idea why this works, I’m just glad it does.
  • Music. Listen to it, write it, practice it, perform it. Probably the only good thing about getting the blues is that sad songs feel so good.
  • Amigos. Look, getting rescued by your closest friends seems great until they get sick of it doing it; then you feel much, much worse, and you’re back to chasing your own tail. Try to hold it together and don’t be afraid to tell everyone about the blues. Cherish the ones who stick around, and take you to karaoke.
  • Chop your hair off. I don’t know why I don’t do this more often.
  • Start over. Quit your job, move away. See the world. You’ll learn new things and become more interesting, and feel relieved about coming home.
  • Learn a language. Remember when you decided to learn Chinese? You were driving up Rainier Avenue, saw a red hen, and decided that it meant that you were going to study in China. That actually panned out, and is still paying off.
  • Exercise. This is preventative; not a short term solution. Sorry.

Why All The Selfies?

The other day in a faculty meeting, I snapped a low-angle selfie of myself in a frame that included my notes, a cup of berries, and the tip of a monstrously huge banana. From across the room, I heard a cackle of laughter from my colleague M. “Is that a selfie?!” he asked incredulously.

“It sure is!”, I answered happily as I reviewed it and sent it on its way.

Later M confronted me.  “What was that about?!”, he asked, delighted.

Years ago when I worked in Seattle, I used to text my friend C during faculty meetings. Usually snarky comments. When I moved to California, I tried to keep doing it; it’s even funnier to me now that we’re not in the same meeting… not even the same state.

I think M was surprised to hear this explanation. He seemed to find it reasonable, and it seemed it hadn’t occurred to him before that selfies could be used to subvert the authority of a faculty meeting. I think he had been expecting an answer that involved more vanity.

I was skeptical of selfies at first as well. Back in 2004 my sister had a Kyocera whose objective pivoted on a hinge to swing around and take selfies. Once I saw how happy my sister and I both looked, my vanity shame vanished.

A few years later, my sister and I made a trip with my mama to the Grand Canyon, who commented off-handedly that you can hardly be Asian anymore without taking selfies. She was talking specifically about selfie sticks. If you’re interested in selfie sticks, I think this one looks good.

I know some people still choke on the vanity of taking selfies. If I ask you to take one with me, here’s what I want you to know: I’m happy to be there with you, and I want to remember it. I don’t even care if the photo turns out fuzzy, if I forgot to smile, or if my chin is ballooning like a bullfrog.

On some days, difficult days, I find it useful to remember what I look like when I’m happy.

Also, sometimes I need to remember that I have friends.

If for whatever reason someone doesn’t want to take a selfie, or doesn’t want to see it, or doesn’t want me to post it, that’s fine with me.

Another very important reason that I take selfies is that I want my mama to see that I’m getting on a plane. Or that I’ve gotten dressed for work. Or that I’ve made it safely to my sister’s house. Those are for my mama. If people begrudge me for sending posting those, I don’t have much to say about that. Sometimes you’re just not the target audience.

Let’s now address the issue of vanity. Yes, I do take vanity selfies. Out of vanity. Because I’m vain. I know I’m not going to win any ribbons at the county fair, but if the lighting is right (as it is in the airplane bathroom), I think it’s ok for me to admire how I look once it a while, since nobody else seems to. My mama appreciates when I look better than normal, and if exes and enemies see that I’m surviving, there’s no harm in that. Also, not wanting to see yourself in a picture because you don’t look perfect is also a kind of vanity.

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Finally, #asiansquatbombs… I take those because it amuses me that colonizers often fall backwards onto their butts when they try it.

Rules I Try to Live By

Never. Miss. Soundcheck.

Take notes. Look busy.

Sleep is a gift.

Vegetables are a gift you give your colon.

The clam that didn’t open is a mud bomb.

If I wasn’t invited, it wasn’t my business.

Say please and thank you; tell people you love them while you can.

Learning language? Find people with talk your face off with. Everything else follows.

If you want pancakes, just make pancakes.

Don’t share a table with someone you hate. Life is short and your meals are numbered.

“Weekends are for mates.” Jim

Don’t ask people to keep secrets or to lie for you.

Wash all the dishes in the sink.

Tell your friends the truth.

Suck up to your sound engineer and your sub coordinator.

Be the person you want to be.

Double space rough drafts.

Don’t yuck other people’s food.

Sing hard, it feels better. Bad singing never killed anyone.

Family first.

Share all recipes freely.