As I opened the front door to walk to work, I remembered that Aaron is picking me up for lunch today, so I thought I should check to see if my wallet was in my left back pocket (where it always is). The thing is, I always put a wad of moisturizer in my left palm so that I can lock my door with my right hand without getting my keys all greasy, then rub it in while walking.
So I reached with my right hand to pad my pocket and see if it was there, but feeling a bit stiff from the weather and the morning, I had to stretch with a bit of force and momentum.
Exactly at that moment, my neighbours came out of their house. We greeted each other, and after repeatedly refusing their offers to drive me to work on such a chilly day, we went our separate ways.
Then I realized that since I hadn’t completely stepped out of my door frame at that point, they probably saw me checking for my wallet without understanding what I was doing, and thought I was doing some strange cross-body back-reaching ass-slapping ritual.
I was on my way to work one day, walking down a hill, when I noticed that there was a rather large snail on the ground. He was about an inch and a half long, his shell a delightful contrast of pink and pastel hues to dark brown banding. I wanted to take a picture, but I didn’t have something to carry him to work (where I have an infinity board and white box), so I decided I’d just grab my camera on break and bring him there.
Of course, my break was in a couple hours, and I was praying that he’d still be there when I went outside. I grabbed the camera and tripod and ran up the hill, looking for a small shell casting a shadow on the concrete.
I found him crushed, splayed out in strands of mucus, most likely stepped on by some careless person. Snails can’t live without their shells, as the calcium carbonate structures hold their internal organs. I took a few pictures of the tragic scene anyway.
When I got home that night, I happened to look at the snaps in quick succession and noticed that parts of him were still moving.
He was still alive.
I took a few frames and overlayed them to make this Flash animation, where you can see his foot wriggling, as well as some indistinguishable entrails that remind me of liver. It’s so sad to think that he was left out to die a slow death with his innards exposed.
I found a small boy sleeping on the steps with a birthmark covering his face and wondered what kind of god would give a child that.
—Sarah Miles, The End Of The Affair
I’m in such a weird mood tonight.
Met a nice, loquacious young man at the bus stop. I saw him hobbling there, his mangled gait visible from the window of my house. His voice was loud and verging on uncontrolled, “My car is in the shop, I have to be there by seven, I can’t be late, I’m coach and manager and medical staff of the Generals, so they can’t go on the field without me.”
With innocent, childlike candor, he continued. I wondered if he was aware. If people took him less seriously. If I really understood who he was.
He got on the bus first, and in a confident tone, said to the bus driver, “Can I get priority seating?”. I considered sitting next to him and continuing our conversation, but by the time my transfer printed out, he already started with the person next to him, “I can’t be late. I’m coaching football…”.
So I cried on the bus because Misery Is A Butterfly, even though it wasn’t loud enough. Even though I put it on. I was doing it to myself, you see, because of this mood. Because I need it and want it and wondered how I’ve ever lived without it.
I’ve been reading Beautiful Losers. Can you tell?
I’m exhausted. It’s late. I should be going to bed, but I want to write. Here I am.
Vanilla chai, this time. I never drink this tea, so it seemed somewhat appropriate.
My limbs are sore. I’ve been practicing my Tai Chi on a regular basis, and my understanding has surpassed my physical ability. I’m starting to over-exert myself. I’ve also been using my arms instead of my whole body when advancing in single push hands, causing my arms to work more than they should. Tonight, it got to the point where they were completely weak. I suspect Elizabeth could feel this, and she switched arms before I had the good sense to do it myself.
It’s getting cold in the house1. The thermostat says 20, but it feels more like 18. I stood in the shower for a good 15 minutes, letting my skin burn under the hot water, to the point where I stepped out of the shower into the cold air and started to sweat.
No editing. No backtracking. Just type, and publish.
I happened to come across a video today by the Grass Roots.
When I think of all the worries people seem to find
And how they’re in a hurry to complicate their minds
By chasing after money and dreams that can’t come true
I’m glad that we are different, we’ve better things to do
The others plan their future, I’m busy loving you
One, two, three, four
Sha-la-la-la-la-la live for today.
Sha-la-la-la-la-la live for today.
And don’t worry ’bout tomorrow, hey hey hey hey.
Maybe I’m just reading into it, like a born-again, but the lyrics struck me as very Taoist, and the idea of detachment in particular2. Darren jokes that I’ll start preaching to him the next time I visit him because our conversations always stray to Taoism.
I’ve been feeling decidedly dark, decidedly yin, lately. Not sad or upset, but in an energetic way. I’m bouncy. Maybe this is the way my brain adjusts to my previously cheerful upswing. The funny thing is that I’m no less cheerful, just in a different way. I feel more balanced. It’s as if the mind aches from some unknown force, expressed through an emotional state, yet relishes and wallows in this.
And I’m loving every minute of it.
I’m trying to wait as long as possible before turning the heat on [↩]
Something I’ve only recently been able to achieve to any relative degree of success. [↩]
I looked out the window, and it was raining. “You can’t wait for the perfect opportunity forever”, I told myself, so I grabbed my toque, my hoodie, my jacket, and stepped outside.
The rain wasn’t heavy, but enough to soak through in a couple minutes.
On my way to the store, I thought of putting an ad in the classifieds.
Looking for cheerful model to dance in rain for photo project.
Should be slim build. Light-brunette to blond hair, no longer than shoulders. Bring own clothes, short-sleeved with no logo preferred.
Will offer digital negatives for portfolio as compensation.
It was a short walk.
At the deli counter was the regular bunch of hooligans, a group of unmotivated, lackadaisical guys with whom I’ve dealt many times before.
I was about to say something to get their attention when another young man (whom I initially assumed was part of this group, with the same facial hair and the same mug), walked up to greet me.
“Barbecue chicken?”, he asked.
I stood there waiting for less than a moment before he came around the counter with something in his hand.
“Wipe your glasses off with this shit”, he told me, and seeing the beads of rainwater on my glasses, handed me a wad of paper towel. The uncouth manner in which he presented the paper towel made his gesture all the more warm.
Handing me my dinner, he said “Take it easy, bro”, and touched his fingers to his forehead in a mini salute.
The rain stopped before I stepped outside again.
And I haven’t cleaned my glasses, or stopped smiling since.
The entirety of my trip was in the company of Andrew and Alex, who hosted me for the weekend. Pictures tell the story.
Drinks at the Madison
On Friday night, we went to The Madison to catch up with their old dragonboat teammates. The Madison is a massive pub, made from two or three amalgamated houses in the downtown district. A very popular spot, which was apparent from the amount of people in it as the night went on.
I hadn’t been out drinking in…two years? Something like that.
I saw her there again, wearing the same clothes, with her life in two new grocery bags. On the same night of another faceless week, except the temperature dropped, and I was standing outside in my bomber jacket, looking in. This time, she was sitting upright and silent, unmoving, hat draped over her eyes.
Crashing inside, I thought.
Her hands were cracked and dark from exposure. How I wanted to reach out, and straighten the tangled skein of her black hair. But what could I do?
I strolled home from work amid the rainfall, with Sara Melson and her saccharine lyrics in my earphones. Words sung unrestrained, clichéd almost, like any other love song, but with an experienced maturity nonetheless.
Now my hands are worn, my clothes are torn
A few of my dreams have been met with scorn
And I don’t have too much time left to borrow
But still I’m gonna love you like I’ve never been hurt before
Drawn to her voice more than her face, sugary sweet mixed with a hint of strength. Guilty pleasure? Maybe. Not that I mind anymore.
But it was still grey today, and I was still undecided.
I think it’s pretty obvious that I don’t think straight when lacking sleep. I get very grumpy, and Bronwen knows not to get in my way when that happens (and not to call me “Mr. Grumpykins”). Still, even with enough sleep, I don’t think it would have changed how I was feeling.
So I picked myself up by reading the parables of Chuang Tzŭ1. Though it’s still well beyond my grasp, I’m slowly learning how to achieve utter emptiness and single-minded stillness.
I like to think that I’m aware enough to know that I’m not deluding myself into this state-of-mind.
Sometimes I wonder if I sound like a born-again Christian, only with Taoism. One of those people who gets preachy, where everything they say relates to their new-found faith. It’s as if my brain processes everything through a Tao filter, and I see everything in a different way. I try to be conscious of it in conversation, to avoid boring someone who wouldn’t really understand anyway, but I can’t help but write about it here.
Nevertheless, I feel enlightened, though still human2; I’m not sure if I’ll get the rug pulled out from under me again. It’s a strange feeling. In this mindset, it’s as if nothing can stop you. Until something happens.
Part of me wishes I wasn’t feeling this high. That I was more even, like Pat. It’s a balance of emotion that I seek, not the dramatic ups and downs. I’ll be content when I can achieve that.
Hence it is paradoxically said, “Perfect happiness is to be without happiness; the highest praise is to be without praise”.
Dave helped talk some sense into me as well. I think part of my recovery was that our discussion led me to feel as if he’s a kindred spirit. [↩]
When looking back on this entry, I realized that I wrote about picking myself up twice in one month. I don’t even remember writing it the first time. [↩]
Knowing where the trap is — that’s the first step in evading it. This is like single combat, Son, only on a larger scale — a feint within a feint within a feint…seemingly without end. The task is to unravel it.
—Duke Leto Atreides, Dune
A feint can be used as a test, to gather information, or a trap, to get someone to do what you want them to do, or both.
The most important part to understand is that the opponent is inherently involved in the situation. You can only gain advantage from a feint depending on the way he or she (re)acts.
A savvy person will react with exactly the right amount of effort, especially important because a feint is only a mock attack. In Tai Chi terms, they balance an opponent’s yin (expansion) with yang (compression), and vice-versa1. In Taoist terms, they act like a mirror, reflecting only that which is in front of them, nothing more and nothing less. With a savvy person, the feint fails, and nothing is gained.
An ignorant person will fall for the trick. They overreact and unbalance themselves2, exposing their vulnerabilities. Without understanding true intention, without seeing the big picture, they get played like a sucker.
And the more they react, the more ridiculous they look.
Hence the emphasis placed on sticking and yielding; a physical connection is needed to know where the center of an opponent is at all times [↩]
In Tai Chi terms, this is considered overextending or collapsing the structure of the body or limbs [↩]
While Joel and his family were on extended vacation, I took care of their cat, Sprocket.
He used to be 25 pounds (from the previous owner who overfed him) but slimmed down to around 14 or 15, I’d say. You can tell he used to be much bigger; if you run your hand down the length of his body, you can feel the bones on his frame sticking out prominently, and there’s a fair amount of extra skin hanging from the belly.
He never got along with Dolly. For the entire time he was with me, which was just under two months, they got in about two dozen fights. Every now and then, there would be a tremendous cacophony of hissing, growling, meowing, and running from one end of the house to the other. I’d say that Sprocket was more often the aggressor, but Dolly started her share of fights. Even though she still has her back claws (Sprocket is completely de-clawed), he had a large weight and size advantage. His bite is also very strong (which I found out from feeding him treats1), I’m guessing from all the practice he got from eating.
It made me re-think getting a second cat while Dolly’s still alive. Two cats can fill a house nicely, but she didn’t get along with him at all. Since they don’t know how old Sprocket is, the aggressiveness may simply be due to his age, but I’m not sure I want to take the chance.
In any case, I can tell he enjoyed the change of pace, which was living in a house with two parents, two kids, and two dogs, to just me and a cat. He’s a sucker for treats, meowing quietly as a “reminder” to give him one. One funny thing I noticed is that he seemed to have harder-than-average paws. When pacing around on the kitchen tiles before being fed, it would sound like a horse trot.
Sprocket also loves attention. No matter what I was doing — cooking breakfast, playing games upstairs, writing downstairs — he would follow me around. It did make my Tai Chi practice more difficult, as he’d spread out on the open carpet and roll around under my feet.
He loves to sleep on blankets, and would always fall asleep on my sheets when I was under them, most commonly near the feet. He got along especially well with Bronwen. When she stayed the night, he would keep her up by constantly walking over her body, looking for a warm place to nestle.
I’ll certainly miss him. Hopefully, he’ll remember me the next time I go over to Joel’s house.
I don’t think he was ever fed by hand; he would always nip my fingers when giving him a treat. Dolly is the opposite. She very delicately moves towards the treat with her mouth, and snatches the treat with her tongue. [↩]
A person who tells you to stop blogging because it’s bad for you, leaves rambling comments such as this, this, and this, draws creepy diagrams about you then e-mails them to people you don’t even know, yet blogs compulsively herself.
How simple a thing is happiness: a glass of wine, a roast chestnut, a wretched little brazier, the sound of the sea. All that is required to feel that here and now is happiness and a simple, frugal heart.
—Zorba the Greek
I feel like writing.
Saturdays are usually reserved for relaxation, but I mixed it with a few errands throughout the day. Bought extra auburn foliage for one of my pots, and a funnel to get fresh-ground pepper into my new pepper shaker. Picked up my weekly groceries. Sat down at the pizza parlor to start Beautiful Losers while my Hawaiian was being baked.
I watched Zorba The Greek tonight, about the adventures of an aimless Englishman who goes to Crete, and the lessons he learns from a man he meets named Zorba.
Though generally jovial and lighthearted, it was heavy and heavy at times. There’s a scene where a beautiful widow (the love interest of the movie) is ritualistically stoned and killed out of jealousy by the men of the village, simply because she wouldn’t let any of them have her. The direction is a little inconsistent, but Anthony Quinn’s portrayal of the Grecian spirit keeps the movie in tact. Many believe the movie to be an analysis of Apollonian vs Dionysian thought, but I saw it as a nod to Taoism as well.
Zorba’s a Taoist, whether he knows it or not. He shuns intellectual thought and analysis, and loves life with bubbling spontaneity. In the end, the Englishman learns from Zorba, not about life, but how to live it.
And it inspired me. Not just the dialogue or the playfulness, but the locations too. It made me want to travel, to see new places, to meet more people, and explore other cultures.
One day. For now, I’ll enjoy the comfort of my house.
So here I am, staying up late with my back next to the open window, eating butter pecan tarts, drinking Dragon Well tea, and writing as much as I can.
In my book tonight, I was reminded of the time I was sitting on the floor of my room and you were lying on the bed when I felt the foundation shudder beneath me. I mapped the escape route in my head, thought of the coats cause it was the end of winter, and was about to grab your hand to lead us outside if the earth shook again, threatening to bury us in three stories of wood and concrete. I told you to be ready to run upstairs on my word. How I loved you then.
And I realized that I can write about it until my fingers are sore, I can think about it into the early hours of the morning, but I can’t tell you how much you hurt me.
Things haven’t been going my way. As much as I try to let them go, I can’t. There’s just too much right now. My mind jumps from one thing to another when I’m in bed.
I need to stay away from the blogosphere for a while. Not writing, but being a part of my usual cliques and forums. The drama lately has been really pissing me off, and it’s certainly not helping.
It’s six in the morning and I’ve been awake for…hmmm…two hours? Another hour before I’m off to work. Maybe writing this has helped.
Pick yourself up, you son-of-a-bitch, because no one’s going to do it for you.
Edit: Nope. Fuck it. I’m going to work, and bringing my hoodie, and a copy of Taxi Driver. I wonder if it’s raining outside.