Archive for June 2011
There are so many things I loved about that girl with the sharp eyes. I don’t even know if I could count the ways she infiltrated into my life, seeping into the nooks and crannies before I noticed. I kept finding pieces of her there long after she was gone.
So of course this is where you ask me, what kind of girl was she? And this is where I open my mouth to speak, but nothing comes out, because there’s no way I could possibly focus on one thing at a time. She was a swirl of everything, and I can never remember one specific thing about her before I’m pelted with all kinds of memories of her. So let me just tell you about my memories of her and maybe you’ll catch some sort of the essence of who she was, now that she’s gone.
Her feet were smaller than mine, but she was still quite tall; I could just see over the top of her head. We measured ourselves against each other once, our backs pressed against each other, our feet bared on the blonde wood floor with the heels pressed against each other. I remember the way the back of her calves pressed against the back of mine, how her elbows jutted into my side as she tried to pull herself up to be taller.
She was stubborn and single-minded. Once, she and I walked home from the ocean, across an entire city, because she refused to have to take a bus to get home. "Why do I want to pay $2 to get home so quickly, when I can walk and see everything around me," she would ask me. I didn’t have an answer for her so we walked and walked, our feet becoming sore, our shoulders tiring from holding our bags.
This girl that I loved, she had a lot of favourite things. She had a favourite handkerchief that she washed every other day in the sink after she got home, squeezing all the water out of it so it would dry in time to use the next day. I still remember her pulling it out of her handbag to dab at the edge of her mouth or to wipe the corner of her eye. She had a favourite bench at the park and a favourite drinking glass at home. Actually, she had one glass she preferred for water, a different mug for coffee, another glass for drinking beer, and a stemless glass for wine and liquor. She had a favourite dress that was slightly torn, but she didn’t think anyone noticed, so she kept wearing it until the material became so thin it started to tear. Always a creature of habit, once she decided to love something, she used it until she broke it or it was lost.
She told me once that she thought the way my left eye crinkled when I laughed was nicer than the right eye. I wasn’t sure if I should feel happy for my left eye, or sad for my right. I suppose it all cancelled out in the end though, so I felt ambiguous about it, but every time I laughed, I tried to see if her smile favoured my left side over my right.
She let me worry about the small things like that, the details of our lives, like the way our hands folded together, her cool fingers nestled between my warm ones. Her palms and fingertips were always calloused from some reason or another. She played the guitar for a while and built up a thick set of callouses on her left fingertips. I liked to feel them scratch against the back of my knuckles.
When I close my eyes, I think about the feel of those rough little fingers pressing into the valleys between my knuckles. I think about how her neck always smelled like a mixture of skin and lavender conditioner, how her hair was unruly and curled in only one direction. She used to bake cookies on a whim, humming along while she scooped out the dough onto the sheet. Rushing through our flat, she’d leave behind the faint smell of her perfume, bunched up socks under the coffee table, a few hairs shaking loose from her hairbrush and collecting on the bathroom floor.
I miss her loud laugh, the soft padding of her feet running down the hallway, the way she shook her hair and hips to music, the way she kept her torn stockings just in case they’d be useful. I even miss the way she rolled over in bed immediately upon waking and reached over to rub on my hair. It was always the first thing she did each morning, her legs stretching under the covers. And I remember rolling my head towards her and cracking open my eyes to look at her face. The first thing I see is her hair spread against the pillow, sticking up in funny ways from sleep, but even now, I can’t remember her face entirely. I think I see her, but then she disappears, replaced by all the snippets of my memories. I remember her, and yet I never had her. She was never mine.
Where have you gone, my love? Come back to me.
It’s not a good idea to abbreviate "Vice President of Sales & Marketing" to "VP of S&M."
Some people (including myself) will think you mean something else entirely.
I sure do love my RSS feeds, using them to follow a bunch of personal blogs and specific content from large sites as well. As you can probably guess, a lot of my feeds have to do with bicycles, food, or photography. I can’t possibly keep up with all these feeds, so I tend to click through a lot of stuff and mark them all as read. Why do I even keep them, then? I suppose I keep them there as bookmarks so I don’t forget about those sites.
But wait, keeping sites I never read bookmarked in my RSS feeds isn’t very efficient.
So this is the part where I admit that I clean them up every so often and where I realised something quite strange: I have a thing for daily lunch blogs.
For example, I browse the following sites:
Obviously, I love reading about lunches. Really, I’m just curious about what people eat for lunch everyday since my lunch is rather boring and predictable (most days it’s a sandwich). Truth be told, I actually dislike going out for lunch and would rather eat my own food everyday, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to know what other people are eating out!
It’s been a while since I’ve done a gratitude list, but here are five things I’ve been grateful for this past week:
1. It’s so warm and sunny down the Peninsula lately. It’s usually chilly up in SF, so it’s nice to have a nice warm bikeride to/from work and then cool off up in SF at home. So much rather have it this way than to have to deal with the heat at home (the cat prefers it this way too!).
2. I adore how small San Francisco really is. Randomly ran into a close friend riding around last night, which was a very nice way to close end the day.
3. Everyday I’m grateful for this, but I am especially glad this past week to feel integrated and trusted at work. It always takes a while to get to know the people you work with and for them to trust that you’re trying to do good engineering, but once you feel it start to take hold, it’s a wonderful feeling. It really does make you feel like part of a team, not just people vying to make the loudest judgment call.
4. I am so grateful for being healthy and happy, and being able to take the time to work towards this. There are so many things to do, things that need to get done, that when you have some time for yourself, it’s so important to make sure that you’re spending that free-time doing what you love. On the physical end, I make sure that I’m eating healthy, home-cooked food and ride my bike for some daily exercise. I may not be the fittest person, but I I feel capable and physically strong enough to handle what I need to do from day to day. In other aspects, I’ve made extra efforts to ensure that I’m doing what I find fulfilling. It means making time for people I love and also for hobbies that I love. I make time to read to stimulate my imagination, listen to music that makes me tap my feet, and try to make time to write and be creative (I’m still struggling with this). What little time I have to spend with friends is so precious to me that I try to only spend it on the ones I love.
5. And last but not least, I’m grateful for Frannie. We’re not picture perfect all the time (nor would I want to be!), but somehow we make it work and we’re building big plans for our future together. I love that we talk about where we’ve been, where we are now, and where we’re going. I think talking about it a lot makes a difference for us, helps us find a common ground for the future, to understand that no matter what happens to us individually (or what we might individually want for ourselves), we can still see ourselves together. I wouldn’t want us to have an entirely unified future (we each have our hobbies and personal goals), but there has to be some kind of overall thread linking us together. I’d never want us to be just like the other, to want what the other person wants. We don’t have to be together all the time, we can have separate lives and still work together. No matter what happens, I feel like we’ll be standing upright facing the future together, and that’s exactly what I want out of our relationship.
I started to write a somewhat whiny post about stress, work, relationships, and so on and so forth, but decided that was incredibly unproductive. Instead, I’ve truncated it to a much shorter post to remind myself of a few things in life. I so often find myself taken down by my own pettiness, so maybe writing this out will make it stick a little better this time around.
Don’t waste your time. Spend it doing activities you love. Spend it on people you love. You only have so many hours in the day, so use them wisely (don’t forget to sleep well). Fuel the relationships you treasure, the ones you’d like to see blossom. Minimize your obligations, not because you are irresponsible, but because you want to increase the activities you want to do and not just have to do. There will always be obligations that must be met in order to function successfully in society; meet them cheerfully and with energy, but don’t waste so much time on them that you forget to do what you want to do.
Don’t forget to be kind to others, even when they are unkind to you. Being mean and petty never got you anywhere, and it only perpetuates that kind of bad energy you’re trying to avoid. As much as you love science, don’t forget to feed your spiritual side, your soul, so to speak. A lot can be gained through understanding not just with your brain but also with your heart.
Be compassionate with others as well as yourself.
This past weekend, Frannie and I had the good fortune to spend some time in the East Bay. Maybe I’m a little biased because I went to college out there and have more than a few friends who live there and absolutely love it, but East Bay actually is pretty damned cool. If Frannie and I didn’t work in South Bay or down the Peninsula, I would have pushed for us to move to the East Bay, especially Oakland or Berkeley. I especially love how much personality those two cities have, and would have liked to have a chance to live near there again.
We visited most recently to check out the Chocolate and Chalk Festival in Berkeley, which happened to coincide with the Live Oak Park Fair (the original date for the Chocolate and Chalk Festival was rained out). The whole thing was actually smaller than we thought it would be, but we still had a lot of fun walking around all the booths and seeing the chalk art people were making on the sidewalks. We were both glad it wasn’t so crowded since it made walking around that much more pleasant.
There were a number of booths selling jewellery, children’s toys, hand-printed/sewn clothing, and handmade bath products. Out of all the booths, I liked the handmade soaps at one booth the most. He had a number of soaps on display, all of them highly fragrant. The interesting thing was that he had a selection of chai-flavoured soaps (mocha chai, vanilla chai, etc.) that smelled really spicy and good. He also took all the trimmings and put them together into a miscellaneous chai soap, which I thought smelled really good, so I bought a bar.
And now our bath smells like chai tea, which is a bit strange, but really not that weird when you think about how successful a business like Lush is. I’ve never been able to stand going into any of their stores because of the overpowering stink, but I would probably be okay with having one of their soaps in the bath. I don’t know if I’ve ever owned anything from Lush because I can’t stand to go into the store to buy or and refuse to buy it online without smelling it first, but I can’t do that without going into the store first.
It’s a cyclical thing.
I’m pretty happy with this random bar of mixed chai soap. I got to buy it outdoors so I wasn’t overwhelmed by the smell of all the different soaps, and I got to support a small business. Maybe I’ll make it my thing to treat myself to a nice smelling soap or lotion when I go to these outdoor festivals in California. There is usually a soap vendor there, and I feel better buying from someone who makes all the soap him/her-self. Plus, I can ask them questions about what’s in the soaps and how they’re made.
By the way, I don’t think the chai smell stays on your skin after you rinse off the soap. At least, I haven’t noticed that I smell of chai spices afterwards. Also, the soaps made by this guy in particular do not contain any sulfates, and are made from saponified oils, similar to how they make Castile soap.
I have just over 40 pages remaining before this book is over, and I’m getting that sad feeling I get when I know a book is ending. Really guys, this book is great. I realise that I like probably 80% of the books that I read (I am so easily pleased, I know), but I am really really enjoying this one. The hardest part is knowing that the author has only written one novel, and it’s the one that’s coming to a close, so what’ll be next?
Guess I’m just that wound up in the characters. I find my own heart beating faster when they’re running from danger, feel that slight ache in my chest when they’re describing sweet memories and emotions.
I feel like I should point out a somewhat strange coincidence regarding this book. Shortly before I started this book, I made a new friend and have been discussing books and authors with him. I happened to recommend Murakami and he happened to recommend Italo Calvino. Lo and behold, there are four parts in The Raw Shark Texts, each prefaced by a quote from four different authors, two of which are the aforementioned (both recommended before I reached those sections)! Interesting coincidence, eh?
By the way, the other two quoted authors are Jorge Luis Borges and Raymond Carver.
As a result of this book coming to a close, I’ve decided to make it a point to read a bit of Borges, Carver, and Calvino. It’ll be a good tangential inspiration, I believe, especially since I am not dead set on the next book already. Lolita was on there, but that’s highly dependent on finding a copy at the library (they seem to constantly be on loan). If I find one, then I’ll read it, but otherwise, I’ll take a poke at these other authors and see what I can come up with.
I was reading all about conceptual sharks when my nose suddenly felt wet and runny. When I wiped it against the back of my hand (yeah I’m gross like that), my hand came away smeared with blood. I managed to prevent it from getting all over my clothes, but did spatter a drop or two on my book, and also later found another couple drops on my skirt that I hope will come out in the wash. Luckily, this book is actually my own copy for once, so I don’t feel so bad about mucking it up.
Back in grade school, I was constantly being sent to the nurse due to sudden nosebleeds in class. The wintertime where I grew up was very cold and dry (as opposed to the damp winters here in California), so the membranes in my nose were prone to rupturing even if I blew my nose too hard. Needless to say, I’m so accustomed to it that when I can feel my nose leaks, assuming I’m not sick, there’s half a chance it’s bleeding.
As for the book, it’s really quite interesting. I cracked it open Sunday evening immediately before bed and have been devouring it ever since. It’s so fascinating and seemingly complicated that I’m not sure I can even explain it to someone else, other than: man wakes up with total amnesia, henceforth makes tremendous efforts to discover how and why. It’s very Memento, only written in mostly-forward tense. It does jump back and forth as he discovers information about the first Eric Sanderson, but it’s not as confusing as Memento to follow (admittedly, I also find films more difficult to follow and understand compared to reading a book, so perhaps it’s just my own confusion that’s the problem).
My print edition has 428 pages, so being that I’m only on page 138 and the story is just now getting interestingly complex, I’m hoping it maintains a similar pace for the remaining 290 pages. Even if it doesn’t, I’m quite excited to spend all the time I can reading it!
Painted all of them aubergine except for one that is now pale pink. Got some comments (from guy friends) asking if I ran out of nail polish. I like having one nail a different colour from the rest, but maybe the contrast this time around is just too much. I feel like going the other way around (all pink nails and one aubergine nail) would also be weird simply because it would look like you slammed it in a door or had some other horrific thing happen to it. Maybe it would work better if the colours were a bit closer together and not just very very dark + almost natural colour.
Is it June already? I must be having a lot of fun, because time is sailing along. I finally managed to poke through more of the film photos from Taiwan that were taken back in March and found some that I quite like. Over the weekend, I think I discussed photography/writing with a new friend. (I say "I think" because I was a bit tipsy and can’t be relied upon to remember everything in exact detail.) I do remember briefly showing him my Flickr account and explaining something about how photography is my way of recording memories because my memory is very much imperfect.
Or at least, that’s what I think I said.
It’s hard to remember what one’s said in front of a cracking fire in an otherwise dark room after more than a few glasses of red wine. I so clearly remember how the fire looked, the sound of it cracking and eating away at the wood, and its warmth on my arms, but I can recall the conversation only in bits and pieces.
But anyway, where was I going with this? Ah yes, the photo above. The memories do blur, but I still remember taking this photo, standing in the darkened alley staring at the lights in the distance. It reminded me of those alien abduction flicks where people are walking into such a bright light, the dark shadowy edges of their bodies blurring and disappearing into a whiteness. It’s the kind of brightness that you imagine to end in something eerie or amazing, the kind of brightness that forces you to hold your hand over your squinting eyes.
I remember how it felt in that alley, surrounded by the noises of the market in the distance, the smells of damp cardboard mixed with mustiness, the cool air lazily blowing past me. This entire trip, I felt a tug upon my heart. It consisted of the endless possibilities of the future, the necessary goodbyes to make it so, the slight heartbreaks, the fortification of my tough shell.
By nature, I’ve always been good at discarding the mantle of my current life and moving on to the next stage with barely a glance back. It prevents me from becoming too sentimental, but it also makes it hard for me to understand the ache others might feel. Why do so many feel this ache? Is it a weakness, a flaw? Why do I have such a hard time finding empathy for others going through something like this? What’s even more interesting is that though I have trouble understanding it in others, over the years, I’ve learn how to formulate the right response, the right things to say, the right things to do.
Awfully fake of me, eh? It makes me feel like a robot sometimes, but I know that if I just follow my little script, hopefully it will work and no one will guess I just don’t get it.
Or maybe I do get it, in my own way. My lack of empathy also makes it hard to understand when I myself feel a similar aching for old friends and familiar places. I feel a strange anger towards myself for being just like all the other sentimental folks out there. But oh right, I’m just human. Guess I should try to remember that more often.