Saturday, January 5, 2019

How Being A Z-List Celebrity Has Changed My Life

Six years after having been "discovered" by Clarissa Wei as having eaten at over 6,000 Chinese restaurants (now over 7300), I asked myself whether my life has really changed or not.  The answer probably lies in the fact that I even have to ask this question, which means it really hasn't.  It's like Lorne Green sang in his only hit record as a singer, I'm the same old me you used to know, just a little bit older.  But upon further reflection, while things haven't changed, in some ways they have, just in an evolutionary, rather than a revolutionary manner.

When I say things haven't changed, I'm still continuing my quest to eat at new Chinese restaurants.  It's not like people recognize me while I walk into restaurants or walk down the street.  While it's happened a few times, which certainly is something different, it doesn't happen often enough to say it has changed my life, though apparently some people think otherwise as I have been told a couple of times by people who said they had seen me in a public location but didn't want to bother me. But the fact is that while people may be aware there's a guy out there who has eaten at over 7,000 Chinese restaurants, attaching a name and a face should they encounter me is a very low probability proposition.  One slight change though is that I may order a little differently, keeping in mind what people might ask me about with regard to the particular restaurant.  Also the occasional interview and speaking requests I get are clearly fun and very interesting. 

But on the other hand there are some definite changes.  Where I used to proudly proclaim I didn't photograph my meals because I'm not a foodie, I now photograph them all.  Not because I've turned into a foodie, but because people were complaining on Twitter that I would talk about meals without providing photographs.  So now I post pictures of my food on Instagram and Twitter, then promptly delete them from my camera and photostreams.

Perhaps the most immediate change which occurred from the very beginning was that I Google myself (under various search terms) at least once a day to see what there is out there about me.  I have found that even if I've done a formal interview with a writer they often don't tell me when their work has actually posted, so at a minimum it's nice to know when something is in circulation.  Then there is the commentary on items either written by or about me.  And there are also times when third parties may mention me, or on a few occasions written an article about me without my knowledge.

Probably the most significant change is continuing to provide content for my Twitter account (almost 1,200 followers) and Instagram (over 500).  I remember a few years ago hearing comments that people on social media feel the pressure of having to continuously post new material for their followers.  I don't think I really understood that point when I heard it, but I understand it now that I've retired in recent months and correspondingly found myself at home and not leaving the house a lot more often than before.

Another change is writing on Chinese American restaurant topics on a regular basis, mostly for the Menuism blog, where I average one article a month.  When I first started writing for Menuism in 2012, I rejected their suggestion to be a regular contributor since I could not envision finding enough Chinese restaurant topics to do anything like that on a regular basis.  Six years later I'm up to over 70 completed articles for Menuism, and while there are periods when I struggle to think of new topics to write about, I do manage keep going.   2017 was a difficult year in that I also wrote a dozen articles for L.A. Weekly, prior to its sale and disappearance as a force in Los Angeles food journalism.  The only way I managed to deal with that added workload was to venture into quasi-restaurant reviews, which I never did before, and which in hindsight I found to be a bit boring.  However, after the demise of L.A. Weekly, I did continue to do similar articles for this Chandavkl blog, so at least I have more regular content for the Chandavkl blog which had consisted of odds and ends and had to struggle to come up with just one posting a month.

I think the remarkable thing is that I have had more than one bout of 15 seconds of fame.  The first bout with Clarissa Wei's L.A. Weekly article which spread to the Huffington Post, People.com, and then viral around the world was a bolt out of the blue for highlighting something that I had been doing in my everyday life for decades.  Then there was another 15 seconds of fame with Frank Shyong's 2013 front page profile, which had a greater impact than Clarissa's article in that the Twitter count shot way up, most likely due to the ABC News/Good Morning America/Yahoo news follow up article. Then came the Search For General Tso movie for the third 15 seconds. This episode was a little different because it was a little more personal.  For a documentary movie that played a few, mostly minor film festivals, with a limited theatrical run which made its way into only one theater multiplex that I know of (in Phoenix), followed by streaming on video services, I was surprised how many people I or my family knew were told by friends and acquaintances that they had seen the General Tso movie and were stunned when I showed up onscreen.  And now, it seems there have been at least another 7 1/2 seconds more of fame resulting with the South China Morning Post Magazine cover feature on me, which while it did not have much of a secondary media impact, appears to be the cause of a 50 percent increase in Instagram followers.




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