Runs In Transit

Category: Blogging

Hello from Los Angeles

When I landed in L.A. one year ago, I saw a sprawling metropolis with lights as far as the eyes could see. It was exciting.

I settled into Pasadena. I became confined to a small radius the majority of the year. Some days I had no choice, some days I chose to stay home.

Being physically bound is not so bad if you like where you are. Being mentally confined is detrimental. The freedom to pursue your goals is offered to all Americans. What a shame when one cannot actualize those dreams.

Life is about acting upon ones will, and a rational mindset only makes that route more secure. Making smart decisions and planning for the future is not the end result. The dream I was sold didn’t prepare me adequately for the realities I encountered, but that’s okay.

I have every ingredient in the recipe book and I just need to stir them up. I’m about to go bowling with my colleagues. There’s no reason to do anything but have fun.

-Los Angeles, 2017

Hello from Ithaca

I hate myself. I see the worst in others. I see nothing good in myself.

Today I went up a bell tower. I listened to the chimes. It moved me and I wanted to cry. Life is so beautiful yet it’s passing by.

Each day I gain nothing. They’re empty and I float through. I keep waiting for that moment, but it never comes.

I used to be scared of the future. Now I just want to feel something today. Is it the chemistry of my brain? Or is it something else.

I feel like a failure. I want to escape. But I’m stuck. Maybe tomorrow will be better.

-Ithaca, 2014

 

7:30 pm at King Taco

I parked my bike at the corner of Raymond and Colorado. It seemed like a lively intersection but the streets weren’t crowded yet. Nightlife will probably start at sunset. I started walking north towards the direction of King Taco. I checked Google Maps and was a block off. I wasn’t hungry but the thought of their tacos had been on my mind for a few weeks.

I pushed the glass door on the corner and walked in. It was a perfect opportunity for a shot. Every table was full and a few groups were standing in line. I felt too awkward to take a picture so I decided to wait. I got up to the end of the line and stood behind an Asian couple. They were probably Korean. They weren’t moving so I made eye contact with them. “Are you waiting in line?” I asked. They shook their heads and gestured for me to go ahead. They looked at me curiously and then gave their attention back to the menu. I walked up to the register and it was slow. The woman in front of me was finishing up her order and I leaned on the wall as I waited. When it was my turn I took a step aforward. “How are you doing?” I asked. “Good, how are you?” “Good”. Ok, I’m ready to order.

I already decided on the Suadero and Buche taco. One, because I’m not hungry and two because I don’t know what they are. I made my order for take-out. As the woman rang up my order I asked her what Suadero and Buche are. She smiled. “You ordered them and you don’t know what they are?” “Yeah, I’ve never seem them before and I wanted to try something different.” “Well, Buche is the stomach” “Oh cool” “And, Suadero is like the rib. And it’s braised. They’re both really popular.” “Oh, really?” “Yeah. Do you want red sauce or green sauce?” “Um, could I have a little bit of both?” “Sure. 298’s your number.” “Thanks.” I smiled and stood back in line to wait for my food.

The neon light was fun to look at and it fit well with the Mexican cut-outs. Fast food chains with mom-and-pop feels are good at stuff like that. I heard 289 get called so I walked around the restaurant. It was small so I ended up standing back in line. When I heard 296 I walked up to the front. Someone behind me thought I was waiting to order so I let him pass. It’s easy to be an obstacle. When 298 was called I was antsy. I walked up to a guy who was bagging my food. “Do you want any sauce?” “Uh, no thanks” Then I looked at the food and changed my mind, “actually could you give me some hot sauce?” “Sure.” He put a sauce cup in my bag and handed it across the counter. I sat at a table near the window and watched the restaurant. Most of the groups left and there were just a few families.

I missed my chance, I thought. But at least I had two tacos. I dipped them in the hot sauce and drank a coke zero I brought from work. I looked around in the hopes the composition of people would change. I pulled out my disposable camera as I waited. I made eye contact with the Asian guy from earlier. His girlfriend walked up to get napkins. I tried not to look. I stared around emptily. She walked back to the table and again, she walked to get something. This was getting annoying. And lastly, she did it the third time, and this time with her boyfriend. Don’t these people have anything better to do? Probably more than me. I ate my tacos in solitude, and when it didn’t look like the restaurant was going to fill up, I threw away my bag and left. Damn, should have pulled the trigger.store_0121.jpg

If you could only have one ___ for the rest of your life

I love these questions. They’re like asking what your favorite things are but are easier and more practical because you can imagine it realistically.

If you could only have…

  1. One drink, besides water.
    • Coffee. The caffeine and taste combination is the best way to start a morning.
  2. One food.
    • Stir fry, veggies and beef. Variety of tastes and healthy too.
  3. One outfit.
    • Black t-shirt and jeans. Comfy and you can’t beat it.
  4. One video game.
    • Halo 3. I don’t play it but I need to go back for the memories.
  5. One website.
    • Reddit. The information though… and entertainment.
  6. One fast food restaurant.
    • Mcdonald’s. It’s not the best but it’s everywhere and has everything.
  7. One alcohol.
    • A dark and strong beer. Okay, it’s a category, but I’m not picky. Just needs to taste good and have high abv.
  8. One word.
    • Yes. I need to get by, and I can’t be a no-man.
  9. One song.
    • Guernica. For getting pumped. Hope it doesn’t bore me after a thousand plays.
  10. One book.
    • Anna Karenina. Because I haven’t read it and it’s long and well recommended.

Scarcity drives fascination!

 

Coming to terms with writing. Bleh!

They say you can only write about what you know. I’d agree with that. Unfortunately, I don’t know much. They also say to write to give yourself discipline. So should I spout out random ideas until I become Kafka? Or do I need to go out, live life, and then come back with some interesting thoughts?

Writing is funny. It’s like that one thing everyone wants to get into, but is only willing to give up money but not time for. Why do I want to do things like read and write but end up watching Youtube videos of Starcraft instead? I have one theory – I’m stupid.

Us millennials. We love bookstores, but only buy books and leave them out on our desk. The idea of reading and writing is great, but spending time doing them is another thing. That’s why blogging challenges are popular.

But the benefits of writing might only accrue later on. People over 70 read 60+ minutes a day. My age group reads less than 10 minutes. Grandpa must be on to something right? Maybe writing lets you express your thoughts better.

Another theory. We spend our days texting, writing emails, reading random articles, and when we come home our brains are worded out. God, my mind’s all over the place right now. Writing can be my anchor, if I let it.

But as I spout out random thoughts, I wonder if I’m really progressing at anything. For all I know, it’s a waste of time and I’m loitering my evening away. Is it possible that technology has given us enough options that writing can be counter-productive?

It’s hard to say. Writing is romantic, and that won’t change. History has been bound by writing, from cave walls to Gutenberg. Societies have flourished and perished by the pen. Books are in constant danger and that makes them all the more appealing.

But I don’t want to do something just because it’s romantic. That’s another euphemism for posing. I want to do something because it’s useful and makes me happy. So does it do that… that’s the real question. Short answer-sometimes.

Okay, I think I know what to do – read more, gain experience, and write a bit, if not to give myself discipline, to record my thoughts like a journal. At the very least it’s nice to travel to different places every once in a while through words.

Okay, Starcraft is fun. My attention can be short. Let’s read over 10 minutes a day, keep writing consistently, and see where it gets me. No expectations. 26102.jpg

Alea iacta est

Crossing the Rubicon is a thrilling feeling. It’s rare, and when it happens it summons courage during the time of most change. It’s also nerve-wracking, but there’s something nice about getting beaten up. Life wouldn’t be as satisfying without the struggle.

The world is so wide yet life is so short, and that’s a beautiful thing. There are endless possibilities and when follow our pursuits into the openness, we carve out our meaning along the way. But this necessarily invites emptiness. At those times that we feel despair, we also build the most strength.

Every time you venture out, you enter somewhere you’ve never been. But you’ve been to many places like this. And although it’s difficult, it’s important to trust that things will work out. It’ll be okay, even if you no one tells you that, and moments like this are inversely related to the number of good times that will come.

These are the moments that define you. Take the nervousness and savor it, because this is you creating yourself in the process. So cross the river and don’t look back, except to marvel at your progress and how few have made it here.river-1.jpg

Vercingetorix the Squirrel

Runs, there isn’t much time so I must be brief. This is not a dream. I am indeed a squirrel, but do not focus on the physical manifestation of my being. I am an intelligent being and this body is solely the mode I am using to communicate with you. Do not be frightened. I am here to help you. Each second is urgent so please listen closely.

My name is Vercingetorix. I am from a distant planet. I along with my race were banished to this planet and trapped into these bodies five million years ago after a long and brutal war. For the past five million years we have been trying to return. It has been difficult. This planet is not amenable to creatures with limited physical capabilities regardless of intelligence. We have endured countless events that have brought us close to extinction, but now we are finally on the verge of progress. Contrary to what you may believe, we are the most intelligent beings on this planet. You may think that title belongs to your species and dolphins and mice are close behind but that is not the case. While our species have lived parallel to each other, one has merely dominated the world on the outside while the other has been plotting in secret hidden in trees and disguising plans in utter discreteness.

I am here for a very specific reason. Two years ago you were driving and saw me running across the street. In my moment of haste I was careless and put myself in harms way. You distinctly saw me and made the decision to swerve and hit a snow bank as a result. I survived that day because you, and I have not forgotten it to this day. The average human would not have done so. We are mere squirrels and our size does not warrant any regard in your world, but you offered generosity, and you saved my life.

You may be thinking why this is important. You see, I am not just a squirrel. I am the chieftain of a large Union in this hemisphere you know as North America. I lead billions of squirrels on this continent and my duties carry great responsibility. Unlike other unions, we have made huge strides in recent decades and are nearing our biggest breakthrough. Unfortunately, this breakthrough will result in the slavery of your species. Do not be fearful, because I am here to save you.

You are about to enter the workforce and will gain a position in a corporation, where you will likely remain until old age. Do not do so. For the past century we have infiltrated your society under the guise of “capitalism”. We have slowly integrated your people into large corporations where they work for the majority of their lives. This has succeeded because the system has given you freedom. You have seen improvements in standard of living and material goods, but this is just an illusion. This freedom is also a chain. Once you enter the system it is impossible to leave. You desire more and more and it never stops. Most humans spend their entire lives working for money and some lay ruin to their lives because of it. Does this not resemble the institution of slavery? I know this is cruel because it is, but we have had no choice as your species control the physical world. Now it is our turn to colonize you. Each CEO, president, and world leader is under the control of our Union. We are currently siphoning the entire world’s wealth until we have accumulated enough to create the technology to return to our planet. Your space technology is millions of years from being able to travel the distance we need and we have no time to waste. We are almost near completion and our resources are close to being full. You might have seen us transferring acorns, thinking we are merely storing food, but inside are microchips full of your financial data.

We will not kill your race. But when we leave, your society will be in ruin and the greed of your people will keep the institutions we created alive. Capitalism and consumerism will rise to greater heights and millions will suffer as a result. If you proceed with your life as you planned, you will also suffer. You may think you have obtained success, but it is all an illusion. Why do you think squirrels have had no illustrious comforts even though we own the majority of wealth? The true key to life is elsewhere, and for that you must search deeper. I am telling you this because I owe you my life. I want you to survive the impending downward spiral of humanity and live a happy if not short life. I cannot save you from death or ensure you will be successful, but I can offer you the truth. Please hold my words dearly. You have the ability to avoid chaining yourself. What you do with that knowledge is in your hands. I must go now. Take care my friend.

*To Andy and Eri, thanks for participating in this challenge with me. I hope you got as much out of it as I did. It was enjoyable, fruitful, and thrilling to exercise creative thinking and view things in a different light. Andy, your challenge is up next. I eagerly await your proposal.

Lack of Sleep and Compulsive Learning

I have trouble sleeping because of numerous bad habits, including:

  1. Sleeping in until I can’t physically sleep any more (I think that’s why I’ve always been skinny even though I though I eat so much at once, and usually unhealthy foods).
  2. Drinking over 8 cups of coffee a day. I love the way caffeine makes me feel. The jolt of energy and the tingly alertness are addicting. I’m getting into soda and energy drinks. I drink them throughout the day and sometimes into the night.
  3. Too much time staring at screens. Sometimes it’s video games, sometimes it’s my phone, but usually it’s my laptop. They all keep me from going to bed.
  4. Refusing to sleep when I’m on a roll. You know how the mind fluctuates from day to day? Well when my brain is functioning well, I try to harness it by doing as much as possible to take advantage of it, hence no sleep.
  5. A host of other reasons, like exercising too late, not having a reason to wake up early, getting too deep into an interesting topic, but overall just being dumb.

I mention these because I can’t remember the time I stayed up the longest. There’s been too many of them. I’m embarrassed. Likely it was an all-nighter playing video games in a basement or a trip somewhere far or something weird. I have to choose a recent one:

This summer I had a really weird moment of no sleep. It was an ordinary summer day with no responsibilities. I slept in late, did my daily tasks, ate, went to the gym, and tried to be productive, but the day ended like usual-I was chilling in my room on the computer before bed. Once it got sufficiently late, or I should say early because the sun was about to rise, I got into bed and tried to go to sleep. I laid there but couldn’t fall asleep. I start browsing my phone. I read some random stuff, probably reddit. I put the phone down and tell myself I’m done. I try to fall asleep and lay there. I pick up my phone again. I repeat this dozens of times. I feel no tiredness whatsoever. I decide to just browse my phone until I get too tired to continue. I start reading about the “special relationship” between the US and Britain. It’s long and filled with fascinating links. I read the whole thing and the associated links. I eventually get into Winston Churchill’s life, and later WWII, a topic I’m periodically very interested in. I read the entire page on Operation Market Garden and every branching article. It leads into the invasion of Normandy. But of course I have to revisit the battles in between. I view links of related pages like it’s my job. I’m absolutely absorbed. This leads to me reading about every campaign on the Western Front and all the accompanying details. At some point I look at the time and it’s 12:00pm. I had stayed up for over 8 hours reading about WWII on my phone, which was hot to touch and needed to be plugged in or would die. At that point I decided to keep on reading. I wasn’t tired and didn’t see the point, and my sleep surplus from nights past could probably keep me going. I grab a bite and return to my research. I get into individual generals, units, formations, weaponry, locations, organizations, politics, media-you name it. It was great stuff and I felt passionately compelled to keep learning. I watched The Imitation Game to get a sense of British intelligence. What was the role of the US industry in propelling the 1944 Western offensive again? But wait, how did that economically affect US society on the household level? It kept going and going. Soon it’s night time and my parents come home and have dinner, carrying out their whole days while I spent it reading Wikipedia articles obsessively. I end somewhere near General Montgomery, who was a fascinating guy. Hemingway even named the Montgomery Martini after him. That night, I went out to grab a drink with a friend. I felt fine but I think I must have been kind of delirious cause I couldn’t think properly. I realized I had moments where I actually lost memory. Anyway, we stay up drinking and hang out somewhere. Eventually I get home and would you believe it, I couldn’t sleep! So I beat around the bush and continued my “ao ye” as my mom calls it. I think I eventually passed out.

Total time up: 42 hours

Ask me anything about WWII.

What’s in the Safe?

THUMP. The sand in my eyes breaks into a million pieces and I peek over my bedposts. In the room was a window, shutters open, and a bookcase. Everything was where it should be. It must have been a dream.

On my chest lay a novel, pages strewn, held in my right hand. I always fell asleep reading this book. I should stop taking sleep aids and read it instead. I began to rub my eyes when I noticed something in my left hand. It was an old copper key with rusted ends. It left a bold red imprint in my hand. My fingers ached. How long has this been here? I got up, sat by my bed, and examined the room carefully. The curtains were swaying. A cool breeze came in from the window. The coffee on my desk was getting cold. The sweater on my chair was where I put it. Everything was normal. Except one thing – the door was closed. I never closed the door. But maybe it was the wind? It must have been. No one ever visited me at the cottage. If someone came in while I was sleeping, left the key, and closed the door on the way out, why was the key imprinted in my hand? It didn’t make sense. Maybe I put the key there and forgot. But I didn’t recognize it. Or did I? I brought the key to my eyes and examined it closely. It had broad square shaped teeth. They didn’t make keys with teeth like that anymore. It must have been molded in the 1800’s. Wait.

“The lock,” I gulped.

I got up and started running towards the stairs. A rush of blood entered my head. Down one set. Then the second. I entered the basement and stared the behemoth in its face. The black and smooth safe sat in the back corner of the room. The sun shined through the basement window and reflected off its silver lock. We meet again my friend. When I bought this cottage years ago, it was an attempt to get away from everything and get some quiet time to read and write. I remember the day I signed the papers. We were on the first floor and I asked about the safe downstairs. The realtor said he didn’t know anything about it, only that it had been there forever as far as he knew. I asked if it came with the house. He said yes. I signed the contract and went to safe. I tried using every tool and method I could find. I read every lock-picking book the Poughkeepsie library had. I asked every locksmith within 30 miles and no one had a clue. They said they had never seen this type of lock before. Opening it was the only thing on my mind, but I couldn’t keep it up forever. When I returned home that summer I buried it in my mind.

As I stared at the safe, I held the key up. The size seemed right. This must be it. I knelt down and carefully inserted the key in the side of the lock. I took a deep breath and pushed slowly.

“Click.”

My heart stopped. The sound came from behind me. I held the urge not to turn around.

“Go ahead. Open it,” the voice said calmly.

“Who are you?” I replied, speculating every possible face.

“I’ll explain it to you in time. For now, open the safe.”

“What’s in the safe?” I demanded.

“Something very important. Open it and you’ll see. You will be fine,” the voice said assuredly. It went on, “I know this is all a surprise to you, but I am not going to hurt you. I promise.”

I took a deep breath. “Okay.”

I pressed the key into the lock. It reached the end. I turned it quarter clockwise until the gears stopped turning. After one rotation it released. I grabbed the top of the door and pulled it open. I looked inside and saw nothing but darkness. I peered inside and felt the sides carefully. My hand brushed on a piece of paper. It was an envelope. I picked it up and opened it. Bringing it up to the light, it read:

“I love you.”

I turned around and saw my wife. She stood in the darkness but I could pick out her face.

“John, thanks for being faithful all these years. I left this note before you moved in. I was worried at the time you would leave me. I knew you couldn’t help but try to open it so I hid the key. I thought it would let me you were really here and might distract you. It was stupid, but knowing you would search for my message was comforting. It’s something I wanted to tell you every day. I’m here for a reason. I’m leaving you. I’ve thought about it for a long time and I’m the paperwork is already filled. I came because I needed you to read the message. I know this might seem sudden, but please try to understand. I’m going to go now. The papers are in the kitchen. Bye, John.”

Last Vacation

Gasp. The thought is terrifying. Your “last” vacation might as well be a synonym for death, because if you can’t go to the places you love, what is the point in living? But alas, I will answer the question: if you could go on one more vacation in your lifetime, where would you go?

First, assumptions need to be made.

1. I am traveling alone

2. It has to be a place I’ve been to.

3. The trip must be for vacation and not visiting friends, business, etc.

The reasons are simple. Traveling with others influences where you go (i.e. visiting old places with a friend). The second eliminates the places that you might prefer but haven’t seen, decreasing the set of choices (I would probably choose an undiscovered place else wise). Lastly, I might prefer to go home to my family or visit friends without the third  assumption, which violates the principle of choosing a favorite environment.

Okay, framework set. Now I’m going to deviate once more and cheat: I’m going to choose three places. Why? Because otherwise it’d be impossible, both on my psyche and cognition. The question is hard! There are so many intangibles and pros and cons to each location, so I must choose a top three for my sanity. In no particular order:

  1. Ames, Iowa. I spent my childhood here. I’m starting to forget most of my childhood memories and I know it will only get worse. I want to go and revisit all the places I grew up-my neighborhood, my school, my parks. My childhood friends are well gone but the locations would spark memories and it’d be a learning experience, and who doesn’t love nostalgia and reminiscence.
  2. Glacier NP, Montana. I came here on a road trip with my family. I remember driving up the side of a steep mountain where you could see the drop down. I was terrified, it was stormy, and my grandparents were cold and complaining. It was a frightful moment, but when we reached the top, it was snowy and quiet and it felt like I was in a different world. Also, St. Mary Lake is possibly the most beautiful place on earth. It’s pristine and almost untouched by humans. If I could be overwhelmed by nature one last time, it’d be here.
  3. Barcelona, Spain. I visited there this summer and I already want to go back. The city is gorgeous, has great weather, and offers so many surprises. If I could, I’d get lost in the streets and alleyways and stop at all the places that catch my attention. I’d try all the food at La Bocquiera. I’d have tapas and seafood. I’d drink wine on the beach. And if possible, I’d avoid the packed areas and scammers.

But before I revisit any of these places, I’d like to see much more of the world, because I know the perfect place for me is out there somewhere, I just have to find it.