John Tang

Reading some Tennessee Williams

Posted in Sketchbook by Jt's Item Roster on June 11, 2010

On Being Jim (part i)

Perusing through the library shelves, I found William’s collection of plays. Where has this memory gone? I thought, as the book split into a scene from The Glass Menagerie. My last semester at Solano Community College, I enrolled in theater with Mr. McGuire, an Irish actor from San Francisco. He was spry for an old man when he taught, but silent and reserved every morning throughout the semester. Every story he told was accompanied with gestures. He could cover the entire auditorium in telling his trip to buying gasoline. His voice was deep, his movement a bit flamboyant with “class,” in its caricature bourgeois-sense (i.e. holding a fine glass of wine, pinching your lower lip while you contemplated and spoke). First week of class he asked what kind of scenes interested us. All the students had brought scenes from movies, printed on copy paper, perhaps from online. A few had brought in screen-plays. Being last, at the very back of the semi-circle, he caught me holding an enormous anthology of plays, as I read off Miller’s Death of a Salesman.

“You know Williams?”

“Tennessee?” I looked up. “I read The Glass Menagerie before.”

“Interesting. You will be Jim for midterm.”


“Do you smoke?” He asked. “Well, you can’t anymore on stage. It’s illegal since the early 90’s. It’s for the smell than the health-issue of it. One time someone from the audience past out just festering in perfume. But find someone who does smoke and ask for some cigarettes. Do you know anyone?”

“My parents.”

“Get some. Study their gestures.”

While speaking, he ran behind the class and pulled a ladder to my side.

“Do you remember the opening scene?”

“Where he’s just talking?”

“Do you know where he’s at?”

I was a bit afraid of his enthusiasm. Holding the western canon of plays, I didn’t want to appear being fake. I remember enjoying my first read; my English professor Nils Michals offered the play because it was conveniently in our anthology (not the same as I’m holding now), and he explained the “too easy” significance of the glass animals and Laura.

“At home?”  I faltered. “Sorry, I haven’t read the play for months now.”

“On a fire escape!” He said. “This will be your fire escape.”

He asked me to climb it, and I did. I was high-up, about nine-steps in, when I turned around and couldn’t focus on the play. Further up, you were sharing space with the lighting which hung on steel wires. Also, you could see the yellow and black lift for the stage managers to adjust the play in the process of being produced.

“Did you want to me to finish it?”

“You might want to sit on top.” He suggested. “No. You’re on a fire escape. Have a hand on the next rung. Then you other hand will be smoking.” He stopped and turned to the class. “During a play, an old friend of mine was doing a farce, a comedy—and he was at the end. He climbed the top of the curtains and he fell. The audience was laughing, the curtains came down. I hope if I die on stage I make the people laugh. It’s easier to do comedy than tragedy.”

The students seemed amused, and I was still high-up looking down at Mr. McGuire tell the story.

“I don’t want to die.”

“John. You can come down now.” He called. “So Jim, get some cigarettes. Looks like we have our  Jim. Talk to me after class and you should know a little bit about Tennessee. Because Jim was Tennessee, you know.”



Cato’s House for the Most Part

Posted in Sketchbook by Jt's Item Roster on June 9, 2010

On Bingo’s Diet

Five minutes ago, Bingo had finished his silver dish of dog food. James had plans of walking him at five, but since Bingo ate, James was worried about Bingo’s health. Yet now Bingo had a tennis ball in his mouth, looking for Gabe and stepping away all around the house. James asked himself, “Why do you want to play now, Bingo, you just ate?” While typing and staring blindly into the wooden floor, John offered a suggestion to Bingo’s diet:

Because he has a different digestive system

No, he’s stupid

Write that down, John.  James commanded in humor. No, don’t write it down.

Write it down, Arian said from the kitchen. That’s a good one

Nah, don’t.

No, it’s good.

It just doesn’t give out any real facts.

No, it’s good, James.


Playing Modern Warfare

One both knees, in black jeans, he was sure the knife sliced Racleo before the bullets.  How did you run? Arian asked. “Damn it. I didn’t want t see this.” Slouching further down, lowering shoulder onto the coffee table, his character on the television crept behind the box, the scope honed on two soldiers who suddenly crossed the pile of gray trash tinged in day. Racleo and James admitted they were occupied with the wrong person, as they chased Gabe. Then in the chase Arian found them under the brick arc.

Oh my gosh, who is this? Gabe asked. Oh, you got me. James is watching…through radar. He is a CIA on the helicopter. Jesus man, how does he keep getting the radar?

Oh my gosh

Where’s the radar? Gabe said mocking James.

That was hella hard to find.


Gabe on a Leather Couch (A monologue in three parts)

Anime is genius. One of the dialogues is interesting. They can create an imaginary friend. And have a conversation. A civil conversation. And have an existence. One of the thing…there was this girl. One of the episode, the girl gather a piled of junk and life sprung out of it. IT couldn’t speak language. All had it was nodding. They would ask a question .They would ask all the right questions. Everything she asked was considerate. Like…She was speaking perfectly, and you know, how you play a game of twenty questions to get, what do you call it, to get (James what are the two scientific question or…method of investigation). Deduce and what the other one? Some anime are really good. So she was talking to this pile of junk, I guess its like that it form consciousness, wherever they lived in this world, their in the scene in the field and the robot looking at everything strangely:  ‘this girl, they’re a lot of flight here, to me it’s completely… It was completely normal to her, you’re familiar with this aren’t you.’  And she would understand it completely. Although they never said word to each other, they understood each other.


He’s only made of pile of junk, so he didn’t have the tools to speak. In his own consciousness could only talk to himself.


You can’t run him out now, James. He’s eating. Five o’clock, you’re stupid. You should have ate with Bingo. Now you can’t do it. Man, we were so close to having Melissa over. We were so close. I don’t know what happened. We asked if she wanted to do it? Today? Eh, what made her flipflop?


Afternoon at the Cato’s Table

Three of us sat around Arian’s dinner table. The reflection the half bottle of water, the fat novel, the yellow bowl full of watermelon (quiet as their white seeds), a pineapple, and pink dinner mats, all were still beside themselves in mahogany glass. Arian and Gabe were reviewing Gabe’s archive of entertainment, movies and music. Gabe had rolled a blue beanie into a ball.

“I started downloading again.”

“Why do you have the Princess Bride?”

“This is an awesome one.”

“He fights mega Antoya,” said Gabe, “the genius”

James turned to Arian

“I call him the pirate robin hood.”

“Do you know the guy from Wonder Years?” Gabe asked.


“You wanna watch it?”

“Yes you do.”

“Does it have a load-up time?” Arian said. “I just want to see an image of it. Are they like robots, aliens?”


Curator, Starbucks; Idea on Things

Posted in Sketchbook by Jt's Item Roster on June 3, 2010

The Curator

Of course my hair was in order, when the adolescent wondered what had gone with my hair. Every March the students of Ikol kindergarten schedule a trip to my museum. I was who toured them—that was after the marble fountain, the ascending stone steps, which I noticed chipped in a few places and gave it a blush of time; one the sides were hills and gardens of statues; and once you enter the portico there was timeless effort pushing against these sand walls, grain to the touch, I believed—all of which were worth mentioning because the grandeur was nonetheless an appendage to the museum’s design—be awed before stepping inside, while intenseness swells like a puss. Today’s theme was Jean, a Vietnamese painter but a New York native.


Starbucks in Suisun

I do not believe Starbucks has a good work-environment.  There is not a hint of quietude. Playing over the speakers is Love Train, then the people spoke loudly, as if competing for song and conversation—although all sound pretty fruitless from what I overheard or rather what is incoherent, including the customer and cashier conversing over coffee products, the couple on the side trying to select a house in Suisun, and the two students—over a pair of biology books—have discovered black eyeglass frames are universal or “can go with anything.” So my journal entry ends here.


Gestures in Things

There are gestures in things. I noticed, lifeless as they appear. But I do not believe in their innocence. More so, I see myself how I left them standing, lying down, hanging off the white desk. Almost floating my semi-rimmed eye glasses stood there leaning against my Bible. Oakley frames. Lenses and temples shaped for a sport-fit. With its thin temples and rims—only on the top half—the glasses sat on its back, with the lenses facing up, I knowing well they are highly prone to chip because of a lack of a metal ring. I currently work at an optometry, and I do not expect to bring work-habits home. Nevertheless, I do. I also realize, as I write now and take short breathes, removing my glasses, I use both hands—unlike the average customer who uses one hand, ruining the hinges on one side, causing the spring to break or the screw to loosen up. Work has subtly soaked into my lifestyle; I take my employment seriously as well.

There is so much worth gleaning in the gestures of Things.


A Man and Priest in and of Vacaville

Posted in Sketchbook by Jt's Item Roster on June 2, 2010

A Man and Priest in and of Vacaville

Usually in a knitted sweater, in muted colors of chestnut or midnight, he enjoyed sweeping the portico of the St. Joseph’s Catholic Church; under where many autumn leaves and spring petals collected in due time in Northern California’s capricious weather. He was soft-spoken and in the deepness there was a slow resonation. He was a plump Irish man, not obese in the American sense, when swinging your arm was considered “exerting energy,” but has mildly suffered from high-cholesterol before; now he walked every morning around the church, school, its gym, and the store where he bought groceries and a bagel with eggs, perhaps. I would see him around whenever I visited the annex of the church; with a smaller alter, dark with teal carpeting and furnishing, it was a sanctuary open to the public.

He was leaving now, a “transition himself,” as he called it, by the end of the summer 2010. Participating in Sacramento Diocese, he chose to relocate to a small town near the city. I understood why, too. He built a stone foundation in Vacaville’s community, influencing me as well, a rather secular humanist, who discovered hope and love and faith in what the average atheist called  “the absent” that was God. He was well-read, as he learned about my college pursuit in English. With my God dilemma—the reason for God— the first author we touched on was Nietzsche: When was God merely a fringe on the imagination? What was existentialism?  We stood outside the annex of the church. I had a hand shy away from the glass door. “I don’t know why there is a God, even further why we exist, but I enjoy being conscious.” He said. “But if you tend to draw your life from Nietzsche, also read his letters on the wars and what kind of person you must be to believe the self is so, or can be so, alone.”

Over the course of eight seasons I had my small quibbles: Why couldn’t Christians unite? How come miracles were difficult to test (how God hid so well)? Why recite the Hail Mary; was that the correct manner to pray?  He answered each one thoroughly and had left in my palm over the years: “But what are you willing to believe? Within their own reasons, not every church reads the Bible in the same light; I believe the Catholic Church, the oldest amongst the denominations, have read and changed their canon accordingly. It is fine to keep questioning God, if you’re afraid. That life will be there waiting, and don’t anticipate too hard on its difficulties.” Father Dan addressed the last query in his office behind an oak desk. “Who said there was a right way to pray? I can share with you, John, my light on things, but don’t find all your answers in these abstract logics—live a little. There’s sweetness in cookies, there’s green in leaves.”

“So you don’t have any works of Karl Rahner, St. Aquinas?” I asked. “No Ratzinger to share?”

“No,” he said and gave me an empty notebook off the shelf. “And please don’t write in the Bible. These are Holy Scriptures.”

Where did this man draw his patience and wisdom for the human condition? Soaked in plagues, wars, anarchy, famine, infidelity, judgment, and especially irony, the Bible did not seem to bare any kind of paradise one would hope on earth.  When I did, however, update myself with current affairs the world was filled with these issues, except perhaps, in smaller units in America: AIDS rising in metropolises; college students protesting against universities, many of which sadly failed; crude oil slowly declining off the peak of the bell curve; so on and so forth. Although technology would find solutions, it would be difficult to avoid the human nature each predicament possibly bred. The Bible only shared its perspective on things, and the man who inherent its qualities seemed to understand forms—diseases, wars, and so forth—were constantly changing, but their content remain homogenous. Sometimes a little patience and allowing situations to pan out have their advantages for the best timing in treatment. Father Dan understood there was life beyond the grandiose, the self and his/her beliefs of the simplest things, again. While we treat issues and wait for updates, let us celebrate in choosing the difference between a cookie and a cupcake, little pleasures that are, nevertheless, part of our lives and ultimately reflections of ourselves.  Father Dan’s wisdom of human condition will be dearly missed.