Monday, November 2, 2009

Ma Vie Sexuelle

ma vie seuelle
I didn’t know anybody in New York and had no place to stay. It turned out that my grandmother had distant cousins living in Flushing, Queens, a central hubbub of Korean Americans in New York. I was to mooch off of the Kim family that I’d never met before, until I got a job and had enough money to find my own place. The Kims consisted of an old lady (my grandmother’s cousin), her son, his wife and their son, Alex. Mr. and Mrs. Kim were hard working first generation immigrants - they both worked at a post office and never around that much. Nonetheless, they all treated me well and I was grateful for their hospitality.

I got a job at a Starbucks in midtown and another one at a Mexican restaurant. I was also interning at a theatre group in the West Village. I hardly stayed at that apartment but to sleep. When I had a little time for myself, I wrote. Alex, then twelve, took an interest in me. As it was mostly the case with the first generation Korean immigrants, his parents put a heavy emphasis on little Alex’s schooling. He in turn, like a good Korean American child, excelled in school- top of the class, a math genius destined to be another Asian American doctor or lawyer or banker. I guess it was fascinating for Alex that I was not one of those but a struggling artist type.

What are you doing? Alex asked me one night.
I’m writing. I answered, as I wrote on my well-worn, trusty Apple computer (Mac Classic II, if anyone remembers that).
Well, what are you writing?

It's a script, a movie script.
Oh, what’s it about?
It’s about relationships.

This was my first magnum opus called “Flush”. I revisited the script recently and found it god-awful.

Can I read it?
Alex read what was on the screen intently, and looked back at me with wide-open eyes.
You say(silently mouthing) “fuck” a lot in this. He giggled.

I regretted having him read it. I didn’t really know how to interact with twelve year olds.

It’s all right. I won’t tell my parents. He said.

Alex was a lonely kid. He used to sneak into my room at night to talk to me.

Lonely at the top eh?
Tell me about it. He used to say with a sigh.

Rendez-vous with French Cinema, an annual film series at the Lincoln Center was going on. I made myself available for one particular film, My Sex Life… or How I Got Into an Argument/Comment je me suis disputé... (ma vie sexuelle) by emerging young director Arnaud Desplechin. It was a typical French, twenty something, talky romantic comedy. It wasn’t a good movie or anything- rather long and monotonous. But I was happy to get a free movie poster of that film at the Center, only later to realize that I didn’t have any place to hang it.

After couple of months, I moved out of the Flushing apartment and into a small room in the East Village tenement building with a musician roommate from the West Indies. Over the years I lost touch with the Kims. I heard the passing of grandma Kim and the family moving to New Jersey.


I was reading a movie review in a magazine at the dentist office. It was one of those hip leisure magazines with full of pretty pictures and advertisements. The review was on The Christmas Tale, directed by Arnaud Desplechin and starring the venerable Catherine Deneuve. The review went on acutely pointing out Desplechin’s penchant for natural dialog and his strength in getting great performance out of the rather large ensemble cast. I was nodding along, basically agreeing with what the reviewer was saying- that his films are like real life but slightly amplified. But these particular sentences really caught my attention and made me look up the name of the critic:

…my first encounter with a Desplechin film was My Sex Life…or How I Got Into an Argument, in a movie poster form, which I found inexplicably in the closet of my parents’ apartment in Flushing, Queens. I never talked to them about it. It was a provocative title for a twelve year old. The poster hung secretly in my room and I became obsessed with the movie and its director…

The review was written by Alex Kim, my long distant cousin.