Friday, August 05, 2005

take fountain


I read once that Bette Davis was a notorious recluse who refused to give interviews for most of her career until she finally agreed to give one in her later years. At this interview, she was asked by the reporter if she had any advice to give to rising starlets new to Hollywood and she replied cryptically with the following two words: "Take Fountain".

Fountain, for those unfamiliar with LA, is a street just south of Sunset boulevard that runs parallel to it for miles. Sunset, both then and now, is always congested with traffic while Fountain is practically empty most of the time. It's a quiet residential road with nothing on it, a fact that's especially surprising considering the human activity taking place just one street above. This is the 'road less traveled' and a good metaphor for life that manages to give me a little tickle everytime I remember to take it. But 'taking Fountain' is easier said then done. There is the call of the flashy billboards, hot nightlife, neon signs and scantily clad booty that give you a sense that you're missing out on something. There is also the eerie loneliness of Fountain that makes you think you've made a wrong turn somewhere. That you'll be beaten, robbed, or hijacked. But Fountain will always be my road of choice. It's about listening to your heart, trusting your instincts, about carving out an identity in this overpopulated world of poseurs and followers. Growing up in a Korean community, I've seen a lot of lives laid to waste by the pressures of social conformity, status and prestige. Kids who trudge through life as doctors and lawyers who have no idea of why they were put on this earth other than to make money and to fulfill some superficial idea of success. Koreans are the worst about this. Lately as a teacher, I've really started to view this as a form of social oppression and wonder how long this pattern will continue to perpetuate itself. How long before Korean-Americans are free from these externally imposed determinants of self-worth? How long before they are completely free to marry people outside their class and race? And is this as inherently bad as I think it is? At least most of them are so busy building their portfolios that they don't have time to smoke crack, hire hookers, or sodomize young children in sleepy mid-Western towns. Or maybe they're just better at hiding it? If anyone knows any crack-smoking, hooker-hiring, child sodomizing Korean-Americans please send them my way so I can discuss with them how it is that they've bravely gone where (most) Koreans have not gone before.

(Photo of the southwest corner of Fountain and Las Palmas, Hollywood.)

7 comments:

cameron said...

I'm confused. Are you suggesting that Korean culture has no respect for the heartbreaking life of toil that is Ph.D. studentdom? If so, then this "Fountain" thing is is actually a fucking Himalayan odyssey without sherpas, not a street.

I can say so because I reached the other side. And the little boys aren't any greener over here. I mean grass. The grass isn't any smoother or silkier.

minsuhson said...

i'm not buying any of your feigned disillusionment mr. ph.d. i know 'the boys' are really greener, smoother and silkier. and maybe even adorned in gold like the ruby yacht of omar khayyam. peddle your self-deprecating post-doctoral bellyaching to someone else, puhlease!

Anonymous said...

said with verve minsuh

and i'd like to quote william james now --

"Anything like the elaborate university machine of France, with its throttling influences upon individuals is unknown here. The spectacle of the Rathdistinction in its innumerable spheres and grades, with which all Germany is crawling to-day, is displeasing to American eyes; and displeasing also in some respects is the institution of knighthood in England, which, aping as it does an aristocratic title, enables one's wife as well as one's self so easily to dazzle the servants at the house of one's friends. But are we Americans ourselves destined after all to hunger after similar vanities on an infinitely more contemptible scale? And is individuality with us also going to count for nothing unless stamped and licensed and authenticated by some title-giving machine? Let us pray that our ancient national genius may long preserve vitality enough to guard us from a future so unmanly and so unbeautiful!"

dan choi

Anonymous said...

that was from "the phd octopus," a 1903 essay

dc

Anonymous said...

to respond to cameron's question, Korean culture has too much respect for the PhD aka the paksa. William James had a good word for this degree fetish: "the Mandarin disease." My mom told me that when I got my PhD, she called Korea and my grandma cried tears of joy, as if I had won the Powerball lottery. Meanwhile, I was numb and regretting all the time I threw down the toilet to get three meaningless letters when I could have been doing something I really loved and growing in a direction I wanted to grow. To express how insignificant I felt my accomplishment to be, I didn't attend my graduation ceremony. My mom was really hurt and mystified by the fact that she wasn't going to get photos of me in a cap and gown. She called my psychologically disturbed and stuff. But I stood my ground on behalf of my ideal of individuality and against the Mandarin disease I've catered to all my life up until know and I am proud that I did. Amen

dan choi

cameron said...

I concur. The Ph.D. is the biggest letdown evar, bigger than the $400 plush toy at the fair whose head breaks off before you leave the parking lot, crystal pepsi, a christmas where santa doesn't come, the second Sex Pistols album, and of course, online dating.

But don't take it from me, I've got a giant jade-colored J tatooed on my chest. I'll probably be kicking myself once I resort to selling my body, as all of the ladies are screaming "J! J! J!" when in fact I'm a big, sad, C inside.

minsuhson said...

is that "c" for "cuddly"?