It has been exactly 10 years since my exile from America. If your a friend of mine, then you've probably heard this story, as it turned my life upside down. A bunch of dudes in their early 20's playing in a band dreaming them big dreams, moving to the big city. We left Honolulu and set sail for San Francisco. Things quickly fell apart, once I crossed that border into Canada and tried to come back to the US, that was the end of that dream. Papers, visas, legalities, and realities. What could've turned out from that dream, I don't know. All I knew was that it was over. Fast forward to Shanghai, fast forward to Montreal, fast forward to Vancouver, fast forward to Berlin, to Lisbon, and now here I am, back in the USA. 10 years from one dream to the next. At one point I could've been a good husband in Vancouver. I could've been an artist in Paris or Zagreb. I could've been a recluse living in the outskirts of Reykjavik. I could've been a father in Berlin. But that's not how life works. I simply forfeited any chance I had of making those dreams into reality. Maybe subconsciously I'm afraid that the rug would be pulled from underneath me again. More papers, visas, legalities and reality scenarios. Afraid of investing time in friendships and relationships because it can all disappear at the snap of a finger once that visa runs out, or some ill fated joke god decides to play on me again. Losing everything once was enough, I thought. I remember one night when I first moved to Montreal, drunk and hanging out with strangers, attempting to socialize and make new friends, while walking outside to the closest metro station in the snow I heard someone's alarm clock go off from some nearby apartment. I stared up at the night sky with the street lights illuminating the snow falling down wishing it was somehow just some bad dream I got stuck in, and I would wake up in San Francisco with my bandmate Tony asking me if I want some pasta he just made. I'd close my eyes and reopen them, repeating this motion until someone patted me on the back and told me I was gonna miss the last train if I don't hurry. Needless to say, I didn't wake up in San Francisco the next day.
A lot of things didn't happen for a long time. For 6 years or so. From one dead end job to the next. There was only one dream I held on to: Music. Anyone who plays music in North America knows this reality. Years and years of relentless touring, playing to 5 people, 10 people, 30, 50 if your lucky. And then luck smiles down upon your hard work, 10 years later since you first joined a band. I almost quit this dream a few times. But then that dream takes you far. From east coast to west coast, across the Atlantic, Northern Europe to Southern Europe, west to east, over the pacific to Asia, the middle east, city after city, country after country, foreign looking flags flying high, girls in heels, stockings, and mini skirts, hotel, motel, holiday inn, comfort inn, motel 6, motel 8, what have you. Then all the rooms starts to look the same, people that didn't want to talk to you all of a sudden wants to talk to you, some people want autographs, some people want to take a picture with you, which is very flattering but then some people just want to touch you and then run away. Little by little you lose sight of what dream your supposed to be in. I was supposed to be someone's husband, someone's son, someone's brother, someone's uncle, someone's friend. It's just work, I told myself and continued on for another 4 years of this dream. I worked hard. I played hard. Tried to be polite. Searching for some meaning that I don't even know if it exists or not. For 4 years it felt like the needle skipped on the record and we were all stuck in some loop. That tune got old quick. You can only cry so many times, you can only move forward and not look back so many times until you realize the trail of fire you left behind, until there's no one left, waiting for you.
I was born to run.
Heres to the next 10 years.
Alex Zhang Hungtai
May 2015, Los Angeles