Two Waynes are Better than One

September 9, 2008 by trooce · Leave a Comment 

I’d like to apologize to my parents.

I have done my best to be a good son. I went to college, and even went on to get a masters degree, despite the fact that I went through it reluctantly. At the time, I think I made a very good case for not going to college.

Let’s see – my reasons were:

1. I’m not going to learn anything useful in college that I don’t already know now. Why do I need to learn calculus?
2. I’m going to be the world’s number one tennis player. What do I need college for?
3. I’m already making plenty of money being the “Dough Specialist” at Round Table Pizza.

After listening to my thoughtful reasoning and very sound logic, I believe my mom’s response was, “I don’t want to hear it. You’re going.”

Now that some time has passed, I can see my parents were right (although I still have never been in a situation where calculus came in handy). In every respect, I owe my parents for everything I have in my life.

But right now, I owe them an apology. Let me explain.

I don’t like my name. “Wayne Chan” – two one word syllables. It’s too short. It sounds like a doorbell chime.

Obviously, there’s not that much that my parents could do with my last name. But “Wayne”? Is that the best they could come up with? Why not something more macho like “Bronson”? With a name like that, I’d go around introducing myself to strangers just so I could say my own name.

Yes, the name’s Chan – Bronson Chan. Please, just call me Bronson.

You don’t like “Bronson”? That’s fine, there are a lot of other names that I would be perfectly happy with. How about “Daniel”? I’d be fine being Daniel Chan, despite the fact that you can’t shake a stick without hitting another Chinese guy named “Daniel”. Why not? It’s a nice name.

But “Wayne”? Where did that name come from? Actually, I know the answer to that question. I once looked up the etymology for my first name. According to my research, the name “Wayne” was an old English occupational surname that meant, “Wagon maker.”

I doubt that my parents were actually thinking about 18th century modes of transportation when they were trying to name their son, but maybe I’m just not giving them their due credit.

All of this leads to the real reason I’ve written this column. Several weeks ago I came upon a young man who pens a number of comic strips, many of them drawn from the perspective of an Asian American. I think his work is truly terrific.

We got to talk and we thought it would be a perfect match if we worked together, combining my columns and his strips. We work in different mediums – I write columns, and he draws comic strips, but we do share a commonality in our perspectives – as Asian Americans who find humor in our daily lives.

So, without further ado, let me introduce (and I am not making this up)…Wayne Chan.

Wayne is based in the Bay Area, and yes, the strip you see next to this column is by him. We’d like to name our collaboration – column & comic strip, “The Waynes of the World.” We hope you enjoy it.

By the way, Wayne, if you’re reading this – I guess I owe your parents an apology too.

Bruce Lee or James Bond – that is the question.

September 3, 2008 by trooce · Leave a Comment 

As an Asian American boy growing up in the 70’s, I spent an inordinate amount of time weighing the pros and cons of both men.  Most people watching a ten-year-old boy while his time away daydreaming about kung fu masters and super secret British spies might naturally assume the boy was placing his heroes into mortal danger in some adventurous exploit.

They would be wrong.  In my mind, these were not fantasies.  These were career options.

But, how to choose?  How could anyone not want to be able to completely disable a dozen bad guys using just your feet, hands, and an ominous stare?  On the other hand, how could anyone resist a tuxedo wearing secret spy who could shoot missiles out of his car or bust out of prison using a bomb set off by a watch/detonator thingamajig.

The biggest sell was trying to convince my parents.  If I recall, through all of “discussion” (if you can call it that), I kept hearing the words, “doctor” or “lawyer” bandied about a lot.

Fine, I thought – just show me a doctor who can remove tonsils wielding a laser imbedded scalpel or a lawyer who gets to have his way with the defendants at the end of the trial and we’ve got a deal.

At ten years old, you haven’t yet learned the word, “impractical”.  A ten year old never wonders why 20 bad guys surrounding Bruce Lee will politely wait their turn to fight Bruce individually instead of gang tackling him, which would seem to make more sense.  Likewise, while Bruce Lee at a minimum suffers a few cuts and bruises and always manages to have his shirt torn off his body, a ten year old never questions why James Bond can fly his boat through a building, have his body ejected from an exploding car and fall from a ten foot building yet manage not to ruffle his hair or crease his still crisp tuxedo.

After all, these are exactly the reasons why I wanted to be like them.

I would love to impart some cultural wisdom on how my being Asian American led me to face some questions of my own sense of identity as I struggled to parse out my feelings for the very western James Bond and the very Chinese Bruce Lee.  I’d love to say that the time I spent dreaming about my two idols helped me better understand the two cultures in my life and that I’ve been able to help my kids as they are growing up.

I’d love to, but I can’t.  Come on – Bruce Lee had numchuks and James Bond drove an Aston Martin!  What else do you need?

Yesterday, my son Tyler said he came up with his own superhero.  He’s nearly ten years old now, and he said that he was getting tired of the superheroes he’s been following – Superman, Batman, & Spiderman.  He calls his superhero, the “Shadowgripper”, a dark and mysterious hero whose special power is the ability to “grab” shadows and turn them into objects he can use and shape at will.

Grabbing shadows?  Kind of makes my thoughts of numchuks and laser watches seem a little underwhelming.  Well, I should let him have his fun.

I’ll even wait a few months before I start mentioning the words “doctor” or “lawyer”.