Today I wish happy birthday to Maria, who will certainly appear on my show ALL MY FRIENDS ARE SMARTER THAN ME. She is wise, brilliant, loyal, kind, generous, considerate, highlarious, probing, critical, and more beautiful now than ever. She is an amazing and ferocious mother. Please note that the bio below is deeply understated.
Made in Taiwan, Maria emigrated to the United States at a young age, living in various towns in the mid-Atlantic and South where nothing ever happened. She moved to New York City and graduated from NYU with a literature degree. After various odd jobs around the city, Maria settled into the music business, where she was fortunate to work with incredible artists such as the Beastie Boys, RZA, Jungle Bros, Shakira, and Fiona Apple. She left the industry after 9/11, taught civics to resettled refugees from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Bangladesh, and other conflict areas, then graduated from Columbia with a master’s in international affairs. Maria currently works with many talented colleagues in the foreign policy realm at the U.S. Department of State.
Maria and I have a unique bond grounded in racial identity as 2nd gen Asian immigrants. We laugh with abandon about our Asian mothers and being Asian mothers. We talk mad shit about white people, especially white parents. To quote Louis CK "You're raising Hitler, motherfucker, do your job!" Maria talked about microaggressions before it became a term. She once had an argument with a white male friend (why fucking bother) about race and he said "Oh, come on, you don't really suffer racism." To which she retorted "I suffer a thousand little indignities every day." Yes, we the invisible minority. And she and I live in staunch contradiction to the model minority.
Maria and I met back in '91 when we both worked in the Jive A&R Department. We ran the streets of New York together with our crew, storming the hip hop clubs four nights a week in Carharrts and Timbs. She stayed in music after I met my ex and quickly ascended but got sick of it. She tried to quit twice, but, like Michael Corleone, every time she thought she was out, they pulled her back in. She finally quit to study International Relations at Columbia and had the illustrious career outlined in her CV below. Thus she is my go-to for all things politics.
Maria helped me meet the father of my children. We started watching kung fu flix and decided we wanted to train. We visited a number of schools and some guy told us a Shaolin monk was teaching. That's like Pavarotti opening an opera academy down the street. We spent a freezing snowy afternoon searching for him up and down Mott Street. It was like a movie. We gave up then learned he had recently moved to Bowery. When we found him, Maria did all the talking, as he only spoke Mandarin. We took our first class February 10, 1995, three months from my 30th birthday. I have never been so sore--I wept at the sight of stairs and had to lower myself like an invalid onto a toilet. That eventually went away and I found myself drawn to my master.
That summer Maria and I met in Hong Kong and I told her I was falling in love with our Shifu. She covered her ears and implored "STOP, STOP, STOP talking about him like that!" It was sacrilege. But it was too late, l was in. She finally said "So spend time with him, Soph, and see where it goes. If nothing else, you'll have an amazing friend." I heeded her advice and two months later my ex and I were living together.
Maria was there for the birth of both my kids and my divorce. Once I became single, she got weekly updates in the form of a "boy journal." She asked me to create a spreadsheet because she couldn't keep track. Two years ago I told her I thought I was going to get fired and she said "You'd better buy an apartment before that happens!" And I did. Last year she came to New York from Costa Rica for my 50th birthday. I look forward to her being there for the times when I rejoice, when I cry, when I crush, when I fail, when I love. And I for her. A Love Supreme