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Everywhere and Nowhere

Why is the subtitle Playing Chinese? How do you play a language or a culture? I think that was my first thought when I opened to the landing page of High Muck a Muck. The instructions on how to go through this piece suggested to keep the sound on, but I don’t have headphones that work with my laptop at the moment, and I’m not working in a spot where I can play things at a volume I’ll be able to clearly hear and not disturb the other working people around me. So I guess going through with the sound off it is.

Just in the first two pages there are a couple mentions of the lottery.

I was going to start with the Everywhere and Nowhere button, but again, considering that I don’t have my headphones and I’m sitting in [a currently crowded] East Campus Cafe, I passed on the video for now. There was a little card with Mandarin written on it, and I noticed that hovering over the image brought up the menu– not exactly as it was seen after clicking the “enter” button, but with most all of the same links. So I used that to get back to the Intro page and then find my way back to the makeshift map drawn on the back and arms of a person.

Where the dots are:

  • Book at the left hand : British Colombia
  • Base of the neck : Everywhere and Nowhere
  • Left shoulder blade : no description
  • Left tricep : Pacific Rim
  • Left hip : no description, Victoria, Richmond, and Vancouver
  • Middle back : 4 buttons no description
  • Right hip : no description and Nelson
  • Right elbow : Canada

When I went back to the map, I started to wonder the significance of why these places were placed at these points on the body, and why the more translucent, smaller dots had no description. Seven dots were like that with no location attached to them, seven were larger, darker, and had locations attached. One was not a dot on the body-map at all– British Colombia has a whole book, which I think didn’t catch my eye until now because it was in the corner.

British Colombia

Poem title : MADE IN CHINA

Why does the speaker need a son? I know this is something highly significant to Chinese culture, but to be honest I never understood it. You don’t need another person for anything– no person will complete you or satisfy your deepest longings or heal the broken pieces of your soul that you often don’t even realize are broken (that is, no person but Jesus). But the second stanza struck me as I remember the Creative Nonfiction class I took last semester; I have a friend who asked so many questions about my faith because she was so closed off to almost every other religion in her orthodox Jewish community. Of course, I had been patient with the almost overwhelming number of questions she asked and the interesting view she previously held of Jesus because of what she’d been taught (and that’s where this ties into the piece).

Who is he, this uncle

All smiles, suit, and tie

Coming through the front door of the café,

eyeing Foo Let behind the counter,

shaking his hand?

High Muck a Muck by Fred Wah, Nicola Harwood, Jin Zhang, Bessie Wapp, Thomas Loh, Tomoyo Ihaya, Hiromoto Ida, Phillip Djwa, and Patrice Leung

Who is this uncle? My friend had been asking herself the same thing about Jesus, especially since her mother had come from a Catholic upbringing but speaks so little about it.

Christianity to me was like a distant cousin and Jesus to me like a depraved uncle who drinks too much and has eyes that wander.

Leila Chomski

Chomski’s quote, upon first hearing it read aloud, had me raising my eyebrows because that’s far from who the Lord actually is. After talking to her about it though, I realized that she was talking about how she had previously viewed Him.

But with that little connection from my life aside, the next line that really struck me about this guy was “He is a China.” How can one man be an entire country, and presumably not the only one to be China itself? But then later on, how can this Charley go back to China if he is China? I know it’s not actually this literal but these are the thoughts running through my head as I’m reading. And I’m still trying to put together who needs a son here– is it Charley speaking in the first line of the poem? It does say that Charley is going back to China only once and coming back in a year with a wife and some money. Maybe the speaker is saying that for himself as he’s observing someone else that he knows is going out to do what he needs to do but can’t bring himself to do.

Prose / Poetry title : GATES

Why are there gates to the kitchen? I don’t even think doors are normal in kitchens, let alone gates. From there it just seems like a string of places? people? things? But then:

They swing and they turn, gate of to and gate of from, entrance and exit, the flow, the discharge, the access, the egress, the Mountains of the Blest, the winds of ch’i, mouth of Yin and eye of Yang,

High Muck a Muck by Fred Wah, Nicola Harwood, Jin Zhang, Bessie Wapp, Thomas Loh, Tomoyo Ihaya, Hiromoto Ida, Phillip Djwa, and Patrice Leung

This really reminded me of the last message I gave at youth on being mindful about what you take in because it affects what you put out into the world. (Now the gates are making a bit more sense to me.) One of the analogies I used was that a cup can only pour out what’s first poured in. I mean think about it, about 80% of what we learn is visual, and what we express is based on things that we’ve learned or experienced. To some extent, I think that’s what the above quote from High Muck a Muck is getting at. What goes in comes out… what goes around comes around… yin and yang.

I expanded on the analogy with two pitchers, only one filled with water to begin. Can the empty pitcher fill another cup? No! It’s empty. So I poured half the water from the full pitcher into the other and asked them: how about now? Yes, it can now. So I took a packet of Crystal Light fruit punch mix and poured that into one of the pitchers and mixed it up and asked them: will you get a glass of water if you pour from the pitcher I just poured into? No! The water is now fruit punch because of what’s been added to it. I then poured half the fruit punch into the water pitcher and asked if I could pour out water at all now. Still no. In the end, there’s only one recorded instance where something was poured into a vessel and something else came out without pouring more than one thing in or without some sort of distilling process: the wedding at Cana.


I had plenty more dots to choose from on the forearm and hand that came up. I thought about it: which dot do I click on? But there’s another book in the corner too… do I click on that instead? I did it. I chose the book.

THE LINE (Pak Ah Pu, the Lottery)

The earth is not limitless. That’s the first thing that bugged me about this poem. Also, why’s the moon crying with tears from a hundred years ago? also know that the Father would love the salt– He did call us to be salt and light to the world, after all. The Eye of the whale? Why is The Eye capitalized? Why is it a secret? A “suffix of ginger” is an interesting way of putting things.

“Stand beside yourself / Don’t listen for the echo.” Sounds like some pretty solid advice that the mannequin that drowned herself could’ve used. Also, can a mannequin even drown if it’s not alive. I’m thinking back to how many times this mannequin named Timmy was “drowned” in the deep end of the pool at work.

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