Family ghosts Los Angeles Travel

Birthday Boy

As the crow flies, it was a stupid idea to include Los Angeles on our round-the-world itinerary. For one thing, we were headed for Down Under. For another, Los Angeles was far from exotic or new to me. If you’re a born and bred Angeleno, there are only so many surprises the Southland can offer. […]

About Karen Kao Family ghosts Los Angeles


Montebello, California: once upon a time the home to Franciscan monks intent on Christianizing the local Indians. From ranchos to citrus farms to oil fields, Montebello is a microcosm of how Los Angeles developed. Even William Mulholland, the infamous water developer, had a hand in naming my hometown after its beautiful hills. Our hill In […]

China Food Hong Kong Los Angeles Politics

Moon Cake

On the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, Asia celebrates the Harvest Moon Festival. Lions dance in China, Taiwan and Singapore. Japanese and Korean children make paper lanterns while in Cambodia, Indonesia and the Philippines, the older generation gazes ardently at the full moon. In all these countries, in one form or another, people […]

Amsterdam Los Angeles Travel


I thought my travel days were over. A 7 month long round-the-world trip should be enough to sate anyone’s wanderlust. And then there’s the pandemic. Today, infection rates in Europe remain at a low simmer with occasional flare-ups in places like Barcelona and Antwerp. By contrast, the US is at a rolling boil with Los […]

Family ghosts Los Angeles Travel

Road Trip

Whenever I come to Los Angeles, I spend a lot of time on the road. It is, after all, the Californian way of life. To sit in your car for hours at a time to get to and from work. Then spend a few hours more to arrive at dinner, a movie or a night […]

China Family ghosts Los Angeles Taiwan


My brothers and I are busy getting rid of stuff. I suppose that this, too, is a part of death. I can remember doing this for my mother-in-law. Now, I’m doing it for Dad. Clothes, medical supplies, lots of paper. There are treasures, too, among the detritus. In his desk drawer, under the paper clips […]

Chinese-American Los Angeles Travel

Los Angeles

When I tell people about our round-the-world itinerary, there are always oohs and aah’s for the far flung destinations like Angkor Wat in Cambodia or Gwangju, South Korea. Los Angeles doesn’t fit in that lineup. I was, after all, born and raised in the City of Angels. La La Land, Lotusville, Shaky Town, El Pueblo. […]

California Chinese-American Los Angeles Travel

Homeward Bound

Last month, I went home to California. It’s an odd word to use, home, given that I’ve lived in Amsterdam for 30 years. But what else can you call the place where you were grew up or your parents still live? Home is not so much a location as a spot on the space-time continuum. […]

Amsterdam Chinese-American Food Los Angeles

Food Fight

There’s a hilarious scene in Portnoy’s Complaint in which Alexander Portnoy mulls over the mysteries of Chinese food. the Lord has lifted the ban on pork dishes for the obedient children of Israel [but] the eating of lobster Cantonese is considered by God (Whose mouthpiece on earth, in matters pertaining to food, is my Mom) […]

California Chinese-American Los Angeles


Whenever I go to Los Angeles, my Mom has a list of things for me to do. I’m not complaining. My brother’s list is much longer. This time my task is to clean out a bedroom closet. Not all of it, just a few designated eyesores. One of those items is a beauty case Grandma […]