February 23, 2019
Los Angeles, California
Growing up, I would spend all of Sunday at Korean church where I would be an angel before sneaking across the street to the red and yellow shack where I would eat a burrito for the first time and fall in love with the medium. Now, as an adult whose life is riddled with sin and burritos, the ritual of church on Sunday has been replaced with the farmer’s market and a visit to my grandmother at the nursing home where she sleeps and shouts.
Since it was the thick of winter, there was only citrus available at the farmers market, which is too acidic for my grandmother’s ancient innards, so I skipped the fruit and grabbed two bunches of purple statice flowers. In line at the flower monger, I waited behind a nice woman with a silly poodle-mix in a red raincoat and bright neon booties. I chuckled and she told me the dog’s name was Macaroni. I left the farmer’s market and went to the Korean grocery store to grab some rice cakes because it was the weekend before the Lunar New Year.
Typically, a visit to my grandmother goes as follows: I enter her room, my mother gets up to give me a hug, and then I shower my grandmother with flowers and fruit. She tells me to stop wasting my money on these things then greedily stashes the fruit away and has me put the flowers in water. I sit with her and she dunks on me by way of bodyshaming, slapping my thighs and laughing at how large they are. Then she continues owning me by telling me I need to start making real money so a woman will take me. I tell her I plan on dying poor and then she scowls so hard that the discs of my spine fall out of place. Then I grab her by the head and kiss her on her soft, wrinkled forehead because I love her.
This Sunday, I walked in and found my mother had left early to avoid the heavier rain. Nana was asleep, snoring peacefully against a backdrop of soft foley from some Korean variety show on the TV. I trimmed back the stems on the statice, put them in water and in my rustling, woke her. She asked me what day it was, then started in on questions about a girlfriend, and money. I told her I had neither, and she said she already knew that because no woman wants a large boy with shallow pockets. I gave her a package of rice cakes and wished her a happy new year. She told me to go away so she could go back to bed and she kissed me on the face.
I went to Jinsol Gukbap on 3rd and had a nice bowl of Korean pork bone soup, which is one of the best meals in Koreatown. I ate slowly and got kimchi on my copy of Janet Malcom’s Forty-One False Starts. All of my books have kimchi, dried bits of salad, or salsa on them because I live in Los Angeles and I’d rather die alone than eat with another person.
Normally, this is where I’d go home, take all of my clothes off and watch a movie on my late-model Macbook in bed, but it was Super Bowl Sunday, which meant I would honor my annual tradition of visiting the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Every year I make the joke that I’ll be watching the big game at LACMA, and a good chunk of people ask in earnest if the museum is broadcasting the game. I hate everyone so much.
I started off at an exhibit of Sri Lankan artifacts that were breathtakingly ornate; they reminded me I need to shed the Eurocentric view of art I was raised on. As I progressed into the gallery, I slowly became disgusted when I realized most of the artifacts were owned by the Royal BC Victoria. Then I just became preoccupied with colonialism instead of enjoying the beauty of what was on display. I wanted to yell about how these priceless, hand-painted slats from a Buddhist temple should be returned to Sri Lanka, but then I looked around and realized I was the only bleeding heart in the room who maybe didn’t grow up in the backseat of a Volvo in like, Claremont, CA.
The next gallery held a bunch of Roman art from the 1500s-1800s. This was great because there was plenty of nudity during these years, and my favorite thing around old art is to take photos with/of ancient penises and butts made of oil and marble. In elementary school I visited Sacramento on a class trip and got in trouble for trying to take a disposable photo of a soldier’s bare ass at the black-granite Vietnam War memorial. I had to hold the teacher’s hand the rest of the day, but now I am finally free, and I went around doing just that and giggling to myself, keeping my cool only when the guards and docents looked at me funny.
From there I went into a room full of Rauschenberg’s work focused on California. I was floored. At LACMA, they try to showcase what I see as love letters to Los Angeles. Rauschenberg wasn’t from here, but it was clear that he really loved it here and appreciated the subcultures that emerge from this weird sprawl of a city.
Next up was The ¼ Mile, which is an installation of various materials that actually goes on for a quarter of a mile. I welled up or guffawed my way through it and it cemented to me that old Bobby R. was an absolute master of technique and aesthetic.
I ended the trip by visiting all my old friends in the permanent collection: Burden, Barb Kruger, Dick Serra, etc. I walked through the large folds of the Richard Serra, reading all the signs that tell you not to touch it or mark it, and I chuckled because they reminded me of the Richard Serra in front of the art school at UCLA. Kids were always trying to run up the sides, or using it as an accessory to skateboard off of, or hiding inside of it to smoke reefer. Every so often, there’d be a flier for some graduate show or house party ten feet up on the inside walls and some poor maintenance worker would have to waddle in with a ladder to pull it down the next day.
I went home and practiced some songs on guitar for my friend Jimmy’s set, which he asked me to play for. I had some chicken tortilla soup, then tried working on this script that’s never gonna be finished or good. I worked for about twenty minutes before I got distracted on YouTube and replaced everything meaningful I had fed to my brain with dross. I slowly eased into sleep, thinking about my perfect day and how I couldn’t wait for next year’s Super Bowl.
Popula is 100% ad-free, reader-supported journalism accountable only to you. Every dollar of your subscription goes straight to our work. Thank you for supporting Popula.