This title is deceptive. This is not an informative story about these events. This is rather a story of a cultural coyote in Los Angeles. I am that animal. I go for days without nourishing my soul with friendship, family, or love. I wander and have a talent for it. Many of my friends are married and busy. My family members do not live in town. And my choice of dating partners leads me to women who are looking for someone else. I assign blame to no one. It is not society’s fault. My life is the summary of my choices. I live alone in a one-bedroom apartment and I write novels and fiction mostly, when I’m not developing educational content Monday through Friday.
There are cultures on the other side of the globe that would consider this way of life hell. Such cultures—like in Asia, the Middle East, and parts of Africa—are collectivist whereas the culture in the U.S. is largely individualist. We make Web apps for Twitter. We make short films for Sundance. We aim to be inventors, authors, and sole proprietors. To us, that is success—to be an alpha among the betas. Collectivist cultures are also adopting the American mindset in order to industrialize. However, these cultures still have multigenerational households and they consider the needs of the whole before the needs of one person.
But I will not argue about which culture is better, because neither is better. They just are what they are. They each have their strengths. As an American-born citizen with Thai and Chinese heritage, I am in a constant custody battle between individualism and collectivism. I seek something to belong to, while also seeking my own voice in an ambitious city named after angels.
On Super Bowl Sunday, February 2, 2014, I was alone among thousands of bodies at the LA Art Book Fair at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. I knew admission would be free. I knew nothing else though, not the books, the publishers, or the artists who might be there. I drifted for hours, photographing the space and the people who had no names, documenting that this day existed, for I knew no witnesses to rely on later. I did not buy anything or mingle or read any books. Little did I know that this would lead me later to the LA Zine Fest. First, follow me through the LA Art Book Fair.
Twelve days after the LA Art Book Fair was Valentine’s Day weekend. On Friday the 14th, I avoided romance and went to a dive bar with my coworker and his wife. On Saturday the 15th, I went alone to the art event Create:Fixate at Lot 613. There I crossed paths with a Lebanese woman I met three years ago, and during the months that followed, I would fall in love with her. On Sunday the 16th, I went alone to the LA Zine Fest, after receiving a flyer for it at the LA Art Book Fair, and because it was happening one mile from my apartment at Helms Bakery, I walked there.
I ran into an old friend named Dove and also a new friend named Taleen who publishes DUM DUM Zine; I had watched Taleen play guitar, bass, and sing with TÜLIPS, one week prior at The Last Bookstore. Much like the LA Art Book Fair, here I did not buy any zines or mingle much. I was a stray animal. I wandered. And I still wander. It is characteristic of my species.
— Tommy Tung
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