Minor Aggressions

Buddha, Barbacoa, Vivienne Tam, Chinese girls and vegans.


When HKL and SFD were in town during the last free Christmas season I recall I took them to South Philly Barbacoa where we managed to score a table and ate a continental tonne of tacos and soup and pickles. While we were there, a group of carolers in faux Dickensian historical re-enactment garb (read: plaid hoop skirts and bonnets) barreled through and sang some songs. I assume they sang with permission but I was finding it offensive that the natural hum of a very VERY busy restaurant would be disrupted by a toothpaste white glee club. GTFOH. Anyway, management wasn’t finding it problematic, and afterward even offered them free food. But that’s when it happens. One of the carolers looks uncomfortably at the staff, resisting the plate of food freshly prepared for them, and says:

No thank you. I’m vegan. Do you understand vegan?

Follow the James Beard Award South Philly Barbacoa on insta. They’re about to get their liquor license! Woo00o


I went to an auction at Christie’s benefiting The Tibet House in 2003, when I was working mostly on marketing Buddha and working with The Tibet House was a no-brainer (Free Tibet! Beaded Bracelets! Tofu is nor murder!). When I arrived in the nicest garment I owned—a Hanae Mori RTW dress I stole from my mom—I was stopped by Bill Cunningham, who named the designer, the year it was presented to the world, and the name of Mori’s season. I don’t remember those details either in real time or in my memory of his memory of it but I am floored with flattery and the unexpected brush with fame. Bill friggin’ Cunningham! As I’d showed up to the event alone, it was also nice for someone to talk to me so I didn’t look like a total loser.

A woman across the room keeps looking at me and smiling gently when we make eye contact. It’s not a come on, I’m sure of it, but I can’t figure out what’s going on. Do I know you? She finally comes over and asks, “I’m sorry but are you Vivienne Tam?”

I guffaw. “Oh my god you think I’m Vivienne Tam?!” I laugh uncontrollably. “Sorry, no. I’m not Vivienne Tam. HAHAHA WOW.”

She walks away and I don’t know who’s more embarrassed.

I finally see the man of the hour. Tenzin Thurman, who has been helping us promote Tezuka’s Buddha to his A-list coterie. I know he won’t recognize me on sight, so I promptly announce myself. Tenzin Thurman then stops dead in his tracks and bows forward with prayer hands at half-mast and says in an exaggerated Asian drawl:

Ahhh, Ishii-san. Hai!


I am at a wedding reception. I am approached by a white woman.

“I’m sorry but can I ask you something personal? I’m sorry, this is awkward.”

“Sure. Shoot.”

“Are you Chinese?”

“No, but I don’t take any offense to being seen as Chinese.”

“OK, well thanks. I was asking because my husband and I are trying to have kids but it’s not going so great and I wanted him to think about adopting from China. I was saying to him, look at her! We could raise a girl who would grow up to look like that.”


I’m invited to a non-profit endowment managers luncheon with a keynote by someone who will explain ethical portfolio management. When I get to the extremely problematic Union League, I find myself in a room full of high finance suits. The keynote gives a long powerpoint presentation, and explains that no amount of electioneering from Bernie will change the market enough to affect any portfolio over a market period (10-25 years) and that the Japanese yen won’t be worth investing in unless they re-militarize.


My mother-in-law pulls the corners of her eyelids back when she describes an Asian in some meaningless anecdote from her day.

It doesn’t matter that I feel beautiful in most of these anecdotes. Of course I’m fucking pretty.


I highly recommend The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist by Adrian Tomine and when everyone is dead, I’ll share a funny story he told me that should’ve been in here.