Los Angeles


Before the art installations, graffiti parties, or Halloween parties, before squatters took over and it was ever nicknamed Bates Motel, the Sunset Pacific motel on Sunset was simply known as Mr. Eng’s Office to my family and me. And this was where I spent many of my childhood vacations.

It was Edward Eng, my dad’s boss, who owned the motel and property. When you entered through the “lobby” and went through a door behind the counter, there was a larger room in the back, which was where Mr. Eng’s accounting business that my father managed before taking over and moving the practice to Monterey Park, taking with him the majority of his Chinese clients.

This was where I spent summer vacations and most bitterly, many spring breaks, which was more like a week-long labor camp aka tax season. Instead of going on vacation like normal kids, my brother, sister, and I worked. While I was too young to enter people’s tax information onto the worksheets, which is what my older siblings did, I sorted the client’s receipts. This trivial task suited a child of six or seven as I would just arrange these bits of paper into neat piles and staple them to make it easier for the employees to add up. Usually, the week after my mom would buy us discounted egg dying kits and chocolate rabbits because my parents were too busy working up until April 15. We always missed Easter.

Edward Eng (but we only ever called him Mr. Eng) was a looming presence but was never in the office — I never met him, but I heard a lot about him. How he had a horrible temper and yelled a lot. He was clearly a formidable man, even to my father, who also has a legendary temper. But also how he was exceptionally clever. He was an account, a lawyer, and prolific L.A. property owner — including his properties in Half Moon Bay, and in the midwest, where he’d go for old fashioned animal hunts. The upstairs of the office had a giant bear and tiger that he hunted, now spread eagled, and mounted to his wall, along with an innocuous mounted moose head. He shot all of these animals himself. And as a child terrified of everything, I would hold my pee for as long as possible, because this was where the restroom was so very conveniently located. I refused to go up there by myself among the animals in the dark and decrepit room. With their eyes and mouths ferociously open, as if they were lunging at him just before he shot them dead.
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My sister and I went to Crispy Pork Gang & Grill in Thai Town. It gave me heartburn for the next three days, but it was worth it.

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Inspired by this blog and by conversations with my friend Linda (above, in one of her many odd poses), we’re going to record our eating budgets and share them on her blog. We’re not quite sure where this project is going but we like healthy, tasty, organic, environmentally-friendly and humane food despite being cheap individuals. We also hate waste and over-consumption, despite our occasional lust for stuff. But we’re trying to be more responsible world citizens.

I was in such a rush during my last few weeks in LA that I’m way behind in posts. So instead, leftovers:

Broken rice, or cơm tấm: imperfect bits that perfectly absorb all the flavors of fragrant, charbroiled meats.

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This photo has been hanging in my parents’ study for years but only became relevant to me this year. I don’t know about you, but after years of the Governator, I’m excited to see some real action in Sacramento.

There’s Jerry Brown and my dad, far right, at a Chinese banquet for a governor’s fundraiser in the late 1970s.

I miss those now-vintage 7Up bottles!


Photo: Linda Theung

This one is from the Varnish and it’s called the Marie Antoinette. Check out the stainless steel straw!

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