from the Korean Army to being published

the blog of an "ex-patriot" writer in Korea

Random #10: Jazz Alley and the Grave of Lost Ambitions

with 2 comments

Last Thursday, I saw a show at Jazz Alley, a small jazz bar in my neighborhood where I’m a regular. I frequent the bar because the music is good and it’s quiet—more often than not, the bar is completely empty save for a few like-minded patrons who appreciate peace and good music.

Being on vacation, I had been in a near-comatose daze all day and had planned to stay that way until the next day, but then I remembered that it was a Thursday and so made my way down to catch the second half of the “Jeff LaRochelle Band” (Humber College Jazz Ensemble). While watching the feverish manipulation of keys—tenor saxophone and piano—I couldn’t help but feel a lingering sense of remorse at having not been an obedient Asian son.

I sold my saxophone during my short stay in Seattle after finishing my military service in 2006. I hadn’t played it in over 10 years and it was taking up space in storage. During those couple months, I threw away or sold most of the things I left behind at home—all my sculptures, my small library, the near-antique darkroom equipment I never ended setting up in our garage, my paintball stuff, my college notes and textbooks. It wasn’t that hard. After the Army, none of it felt like it belonged to me. It felt like they were the relics of a life lived by someone else, someone I didn’t know anymore, someone who died a long time ago and whose junk were only haunting reminders of a life lost.

I gave up the sax after middle school. Only nerds were in band and I was in nerd-denial. I played in band and the jazz band throughout middle school because the other nerds made me feel less so—at least I wasn’t Graham, who popped a boner in his neon hammer pants whenever the busty, plastic Ms. Minor walked past on the way to the gym—but high school brought on a whole new set of insecurities and I felt the need to distance myself from my peers. Besides, I was living in Seattle in the era of Kurt Cobain and the guitar was so much cooler and respectable.

However, watching Jeff LaRochelle strangle that brass lady and make her sing made me insecure. If only I had stuck with it, I could’ve made her howl a more feverish tune. It’s a guy thing—taking pride in your prowess at handling your instrument to please the ladies.

Mom tried to raise me to be a player. Violin in the third grade, piano and clarinet in the fourth, saxophone in the sixth, but by the ninth grade, they were all resigned to the grave of lost ambitions. I was no nerd. More than that, I was no stereotypical Asian prodigy nerd. She couldn’t make me.

Almost twenty years later, I regret it. I wish someone would have told me that those shunned adolescents would be the adults getting laid prolifically. I probably wouldn’t have listened anyway. I was going to be a fucking cool adult anyway who didn’t need such a crutch to get laid. Now that I’m older and wiser, I’ll take any crutch I can to alleviate the throbbing in my neglected leg.

My respite from the loathing was again only brought about by my own male delusion. My return to my true nerd nature in writing this book will be getting me more flower than those nerds will ever see. I’m better looking, to boot.


2 Responses

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  1. recently stumbled across your blog. i really like your style..and this article was quite entertaining. ty 🙂


    July 8, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    • Ty,

      Thanks. I’ve actually been in a bit of funk lately (the subject of my post for tomorrow) and it was nice to hear words of encouragement.



      July 9, 2010 at 12:42 am

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