Ugly / Beautiful

Last Friday, I had the unfortunate honor of experiencing (yet another) race-related incident in San Francisco. A mentally unwell person pointed a kitchen blow torch at me, with the flame out, and threatened to ‘burn me’ because I was an ‘ugly Chinese ho’. I laughed it off, but I guess she was serious, and then she started pointing that thing at my dog and also calling her an ugly Chinese ho (???). Thankfully, I was able to leave as my bus arrived quickly.

I took the day off to decompress. This situation came hot on the heels of some conversations that my wife and I have been having: what is home? Where is it? What does it mean for us to build a home together? I decided to take a long walk through San Francisco. I needed to remember why I came here, and why this city is still, despite its many, many warts, a home I see us living in for the long haul.

I got coffee, met friends and family for dim sum, pet many dogs. I looked at the bay; I breathed in and out. While the city’s beauty cannot make up for some of the ugliness that one experiences as a result of bigotry, I am reminded of how, on balance, I have had a largely good time here; I have experienced a lot of love and support, especially at moments like these; and I have the space to participate in activism to push back precisely on this sort of thing.

a scan of a black and white photo showing a coffee menu at a San Francisco cafe

Delicious coffee at Home.

a scan of a black and white photo showing two cartoon characters at a playground hugging and holding a Hula Hoop

Playgrounds for the children in my neighborhood.

a scan of a black and white photo showing a vintage sign in English and Chinese characters mentioning audio video repair services

Vintage signs in Chinatown.

a scan of a black and white photo showing a large dog trying to sit on his owner at a street side cafe

Saw many gorgeous dogs on a gorgeous day.

a scan of a black and white photo showing a neon sign that says You're Already One Of Us

And many relevant signs.

At the end of the day, I come back to my maybe slightly nihilistic view that there are no good countries. My wife experiences everyday racism in Singapore, that felt like it was worsening towards the end of her decade there; that, plus the fact that my home country doesn’t recognize our marriage, are among the many reasons we don’t live there anymore. A country where we are both outsiders, where we have the ability to participate fully in the building of a society that we want to be a part of, feels, at this point, like where we want to be in spite of the other BS that it comes with.

All photos taken on Minolta Hi-Matic 7S II, Kentmere 400, self dev in Rodinal 1:50 and scanned on Plustek 8200i

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Adrianna Tan @skinnylatte
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