Tell us something about yourself.
I love crap. I love bad novels and cheap clothes. I love dirty shoelaces and melted candles, junk earrings and instant coffee. It’s about finding the beauty in everything. I find it in palms and tea leaves. I sense Pablo Neruda’s sonnets in my coffee dregs, the sublime in street signs, the art in skillfully spilt milk. Every morning, in red beret and blue jeans, I sniff out the bizarre, the grotesque, the beautifully grotesque – a spiraling stack of Post-It notes, photos of transvestites, the horned slug on my lawn in November – life. The beauty that I even exist is a fleeting grin of luck. In post-Mao China’s universities, where my parents met, it was rare for anyone to go to college. They wax nostalgic about their Cultural Revolution, now working keyboards instead of farms. My parents embody human accomplishment and flaw: my dad can whistle; my mother makes great spareribs; neither enjoys cheese. Loving cheese is the hidden East-West divide, a fragile fence of cheddar marking the difference between two worlds. From my mother, I inherited my creativity, first manifested in sewing my own dolls since we could ill afford any. No regrets: I’ve been told Barbie is an oppressor of women. At arm’s length, my parents humor my love for writing and design, thinking it impractical. They try not to think of my gay rights work at all. My creativity is my liability, although I try not to forget as my mother has forgotten hers; it would mean a tragedy of unlearning how I love the way words taste. French is a heady swirl of tongue pronouncing aubergine and pamplemousse. I love writing words, lining them up in haphazard rows, turning a phrase, luxuriating in how they ring in my mouth as salty, sweet, umami. Words help me find the oblique connection, the absurd switchboard of the universe, how we are connected: me, you, six degrees. I am a mere two degrees from James Rosenquist, pop artist. I trawl thrift shop racks for the thrill of wearing clothes with someone else’s name Sharpied on the tag. This summer, I wondered how I would calculate the speed of the 8:45 Metro North train to Grand Central from the angle of the raindrops. I traced their path, noting how I held a map of Beirut in my wrinkled palms and another of the London Underground in my knuckle creases. I am a zygote, a fetus, a child overcome with wanderlust. The train halts. The doors open. I need to interview all these people, pry their secrets from their jealous fists. I need less cynicism, more vulnerability. Instead of streaking, I smile at strangers. Both make you naked.