equivocality — Jeff Ngan's collection of thoughts, experiences, and projects, inspired by pretty much everything
24 Jul 06

A Bittersweet Comfort

Thumbnail: BBQ pork
Thumbnail: Washing veggies
Thumbnail: Cutting onions
Thumbnail: Shiitake mushrooms
Thumbnail: Washed veggies
Thumbnail: Bone China bowls
Thumbnail: Soup close-up
Thumbnail: Soup extreme close-up

A bowl of egg-noodles, with bar­be­cue pork, shi­itake mush­rooms, shrimp, car­rots, bok choi, and green onions in a chicken broth, is con­sid­ered com­fort food for most Chinese peo­ple. They say that com­fort food soothes the mind by act­ing like an opi­ate, hit­ting the recep­tors in our cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem. We go to it in times of stress, and in addi­tion to keep­ing us full, it keeps us pacified.

As Pat and Jen cut, and wash, and cook, they never nib­ble. Everything that’s pre­pared goes into the pot. Not too long, or the veg­eta­bles will lose their firm­ness. With chop­sticks and a spoon, they serve the noo­dle soup in large bowls. One eats from the spoon, which is used to scoop the broth, while the chop­sticks are sim­ply used to put the desired ingre­di­ents on the for­mer utensil.

I don’t have meals like this any­more. Chinese food is a com­pli­cated affair. It takes a mot­ley set of ingre­di­ents, most of which is only avail­able on a sin­gle street in this city, so I’m grate­ful for a real home-cooked meal.

Everything about it brings me back to a time when I was a child, liv­ing with my par­ents, liv­ing off Chinese food every day. The con­trast­ing colours of the pork against the noo­dles. The full aroma. The savoury taste of broth. Even the dul­cet slurp of noodles.

If only my child­hood was worth remembering.

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17 Jul 06

What To Accept?

They always say time changes things, but you actu­ally have to change them yourself.

—Andy Warhol

Many of my rela­tion­ships, roman­tic or oth­er­wise, are often approached, at least par­tially, based on the hope that the other per­son will change. This change can take the form of some­thing as sim­ple as prompt­ness, as frus­trat­ing as tidi­ness, or as grand as self-centeredness.

Change, syn­ony­mous with improve­ment, has been the basis of my life. It takes a self-awareness of my faults, com­bined with a desire to change these faults, to improve. Assuming that oth­ers are the same way has been one of the biggest mis­takes I’ve ever made. When the veil is lifted, and I real­ize that some­one is stuck in their per­son­al­ity, I lose my faith in human­ity. For the frac­tion of peo­ple who are con­scious enough to know that they need to change, (and I mean this in an absolute sense, where almost any­one would agree that some­thing needs improve­ment, such as tem­per or closed-mindedness) only a frac­tion of those are actu­ally able to do so.

It’s not that some peo­ple have willpower and some don’t. It’s that some peo­ple are ready to change and oth­ers are not.

This means that when I meet some­one, I either have to accept or reject them for who they are, because that’s most likely who they’re going to be for the rest of their lives. I have to stop accept­ing some­one based on the hope that they will get better.

Acceptance, which has always been a dif­fi­cult thing for me, thus becomes the most impor­tant thing in my rela­tion­ships. It also remains one of the most hard­est things for me to change.

So should I learn to accept this about myself, the way I should learn to accept things of others?

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10 Jul 06

Bear

Thumbnail: Bronwen kisses bear

Thumbnail: Bear on the rug

The best friend man has in the world may turn against him and become his enemy. His son, or daugh­ter, that he has reared with lov­ing care may prove ungrate­ful. Those who are near­est and dear­est to us, those whom we trust with our hap­pi­ness and good name may become trai­tors to their faith. The money a man has he may lose. It flies away from him, per­haps when he needs it most. A man’s rep­u­ta­tion may be sac­ri­ficed in a moment of ill-considered action. The peo­ple who are prone to fall on their knees when suc­cess is with us may be the first to throw the stone of mal­ice when fail­ure set­tles its cloud upon our head.

The one absolutely unselfish friend that man can have in this self­ish world, the one that never deserts him, the one that never proves ungrate­ful or treach­er­ous, is his dog. A man’s dog stands by him in pros­per­ity and poverty, in health and in sick­ness. He will sleep on the cold ground when the win­try winds blow and the snow dri­ves fiercely, if only to be near his master’s side. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer, he will lick the wounds and sores that come in encoun­ters with the rough­ness of the world. He guards the sleep of his pau­per mas­ter as if he were a prince.

When all other friends desert, he remains. When riches take wing, and rep­u­ta­tion falls to pieces, he is as con­stant in his love as the sun in its jour­ney through the heavens.

If for­tune dri­ves his mas­ter forth, an out­cast in the world, friend­less and home­less, the faith­ful dog asks no higher priv­i­lege than that of accom­pa­ny­ing him, to guard him against dan­ger, to fight against his ene­mies. And when that last scene of all comes, and death takes his mas­ter in its embrace and his body is laid away in the cold ground, no mat­ter if all other friends pur­sue their way, there, by the grave­side will the noble dog be found, his head between his paws, his eyes sad, but open in alert watch­ful­ness, faith­ful and true, even in death.

—George Graham Vest

A dog, sim­ply named Bear, meant the world to a hand­ful. His life was filled with plea­sure, though never spoiled, and free­dom, though always dis­ci­plined. In the last year, his health started to decline. He had a glass eye for his cataracts, heavy med­i­cine for his tumors, but through it all, he was happy, and there was noth­ing but hap­pi­ness for thir­teen long years.

Bear’s life rep­re­sented a child­hood, and all the inno­cence, insou­ciance, and bliss asso­ci­ated with it. Painful, yet impor­tant, his pass­ing is seen as a dis­til­la­tion of matu­rity. This chap­ter has ended, so another one can begin.

Requiescat in pace.

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04 Jul 06

Canada Day '06

Thumbnail: Pat in the hat
Thumbnail: Chaos on couch
Thumbnail: Brother Mike
Thumbnail: Lacey
Thumbnail: Beer in hand
Thumbnail: Jenn with drink
Thumbnail: Sarah licks
Thumbnail: Karen laughs
Thumbnail: Winding down on the couch
Thumbnail: Breakfast of champions
Thumbnail: Maple leaf

For Canada’s 139th, Aaron and Karen braved the rainy weather and hosted a small gath­er­ing for a bar­be­cue. By the time I arrived, sev­eral hours early from help­ing Trolley in the morn­ing, I was tired, moody, and smelling rather fresh, so I decided to leave by the time peo­ple were sup­posed to arrive in the after­noon. Fortunately, Pat and Jen showed up early too, bring­ing with them a deck of Dutch Blitz. It was a game I had never played before, but grew addicted to quickly. The fast-paced, and con­vivial nature of the game light­ened my mood, and by the sec­ond round I was feel­ing jovial. There were other games too — bul­let chess, Trivial Pursuit (90’s Edition, which the guys won for the first time ever), Soul Calibur 2 — all of which I par­took through the rest of the evening.

I had such a good time that I ended up stay­ing the night because I missed my last bus. In the morn­ing, we slowly rose with cof­fee and greasy food, even­tu­ally play­ing some more Dutch Blitz before I had to leave.

It’s hard to remem­ber a time when I was so at ease in a large group, or when I laughed so much. Maybe we’ve finally cut out the intol­er­a­ble peo­ple, the ones who rub me the wrong way with their sim­ple pres­ence. Maybe, as a sign of my grow­ing con­fi­dence, I’m get­ting more com­fort­able around other people.

Or maybe it’s a com­bi­na­tion of both.

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