Memoirs of a Superfan Vol. 10.9

Nikiko Masumoto works during a grape harvest on the family farm in Del Rey, CA. Photo by Alan Sanchez.
"What greater gifts exist than food, friends, family and art?"

Memoirs of a Superfan Volume 10.9

Where can you buy a whole orchard in bloom?

CAAMFest 2015 is now but a memory. I saw all but one film of the 100+ offerings. Ironically, though I was all eyes and ears for CAAMFest, I missed Vanessa Hope’s All Eyes and Ears on the last Saturday at the New Parkway. It came down to a choice between dinner with friends or the film. Linda Blackaby sealed the deal: “At this point in the festival, Ravi, friends are important.” (Of course, she and I both knew that I’d do my best to catch the film later.) I went back to my group and declared, “I was trying to decide between dinner with three beautiful women or a film – am I crazy? Let’s chow.” Nearby, the Grocery Café offered us a feast of Burmese food in a bricolage setting in a converted bodega, just as bricolage as our Asian American family gathered for CAAMFest “An improbable family—but family, nonetheless,” as I wrote in MOSF 10.2. And we closed out an intimate weekend in Oakland with family chow and Lucky Chow, Danielle Chang’s homage to our improbable but increasingly popular cuisine remixing Asian roots with multicultural American flair. I left craving kimchi, ramen, and adobo, and the peoples that make them, an Indian American man intent on world peace through gastric diplomacy. All flavors welcome here, at CAAMFest.

What greater gifts exist than food, friends, family and art? Jim Choi’s Changing Season: On the Masumoto Family Farm brought all these together inimitably. The experience of watching the film and then seeing the entire Masumoto clan take the stage with Choi and his crew was priceless. Mas Masumoto is quite the philosopher/gentleman farmer. The soundman remarked that they quickly learned to not start any conversations before their equipment was turned on and ready to capture everything. “Good morning,” they would say. Mas would look to the horizon and muse, “What is a morning?” It takes such a soul to appreciate an orchard and everything that sustains it, everything that causes the orchard to become a refuge and source of sustenance in turn. The Masumoto’s carry the spirit of the land, and we felt it at the Oakland Museum that night.

As I sat absorbing the moment, gathering in all the stories I’d heard and all the friendships renewed over eleven days, I found myself thinking of Akira Kurosawa’s “The Peach Orchard” from Dreams. A young boy is chastised by the spirits of the peach orchard his family cut down. A female spirit implores the leader not to blame him: “He cried when they cut down the orchard!” The leader shrugs her off, saying “Of course – he likes to eat peaches!” Everyone laughs.

The boy vehemently objects. “Peaches can be bought – but where can you buy a whole orchard in bloom? I loved this orchard, and the trees that bloomed here. That’s why I cried!”

The spirits are moved, and the leader grants the boy another view of the orchard. Spirits dance, the music of the spheres is heard, and the orchard reappears.

CAAMFest is our peach orchard, lovingly tended by philosophers, poets and dreamers, sustained by our community, and providing sustenance for that community. I worry, like Kurosawa’s boy, that the orchard is threatened. Empty seats seem like stumps on a barren field to me, and I wonder where community has gone. To the web? To some other, less-worthy field? To Facebook? As Asian Americans, I’m sure that quite a significant chunk of our dining dollars go to Asian and Asian American cuisine. We need to make sure that our entertainment dollars and time are similarly invested, or else our orchard will be cut down to make way for the highway of assimilation and loss.

I did my taxes last weekend, and celebrated with my first trip to the Ramen Shop in Oakland. I learned they’re expanding soon, just in time for their premiere on Lucky Chow this summer. Over steaming noodles in garlic shoyu broth, I decided I would create new line items for my Quicken accounts: “Entertainment: Asian America” and “Dining: Asian America.” I need to keep track, and motivate. We all do. It’s not just food and entertainment – it’s the very heart and soul of our world.

We need to keep this orchard in bloom, and not just because we like peaches

Our orchard is beautiful.

It is us.

Ravi Chandra, M.D. is a San Francisco psychiatrist and writer. His went viral on March 28, 2015. He writes The Pacific Heart blog for Psychology Today. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and best of all, sign up for an occasional newsletter here, and find out about his upcoming book on the psychology of social networks through a Buddhist lens, Facebuddha: Transcendence in the Age of Social Networks, and his e-book on Asian American Anger. More CAAMFest MOSF blog posts can be found here and here.

Editor’s Note: Attendance numbers among all film festivals fluctuate by year and type of program or film. At the time of publishing this article, CAAM did not have attendance numbers from CAAMFest 2015 and thus cannot confirm attendance in comparison to previous years.