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An attempt at José Saramago’s Style, or, Trying to kill ten minutes of precious time.

At the art history library, where art is read about, and where the reading about of art in turn makes itself a sort of internal performance for the soul that outwardly manifests itself in the form of a college student sitting in a comfortable leather or old black wooden chair or at a table, flipping through an oversized codex of pictures of naked paints and the severe intercourse of grammar and space, or whatever, is also the setting of my keyboard’s monologue to the only other person on this floor, for it is a sunday, the day of rest, or rather, the day of refusing to do anything on my part in preparation for sitting there at holy mass half listening, Who’s to say that that is the way it should be, Who’s to say i’m consciously preparing for half-attention, You’re right, which in turn means that i am right, because face it, you’re grasping for deepness where the shallowness suffices in providing a clear image of your temporary intentions, Shall i pay attention at holy mass, then, Yes, by all means.

R.I.P. (and in God’s kindly misericordiate graces), S. Saramago. -2010

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The Art of Walking

  • I was going to write a post about

    this book

    but then I got lazy.

  • So now I’m going to write about walking. Because that’s what I did this morning to get to work. And it was a fantastic sunny morning.
  • I just did a Google search of this post’s title and I found

    this book

    which apparently is only okay (according to the Amazon ratings).

  • But since I’d been mulling over the idea of writing about the former subject for today and had only switched topics about ten minutes before sitting down at my desk, I kind don’t really have much planned. So here we go.

Manhattanites, both residing and working, have a reputation for being some of the fastest walkers on the planet.  It’s so bad (or good, depending on who you are) that there’s a section of sidewalk somewhere dedicated to the idea.

I quickly raise the guilty hand on this issue.  When I’m at college and walking with my friends, I find myself having to slow down every five steps so that I can stay in pace with them.  Manhattan walking is best done alone, and with a scowl on your face.

But I kind of want to change that. First of all, this is a walk truly found only on people who want to look busy/important, and all self-humbling attempts aside, all the truly busy/important people probably aren’t walking down a busy street anyway. I’m not saying slow it down (we’ll never get anywhere), but maybe we should ease up on the hostile front.

Take today.  It was a bloody fantastic morning.  The sun was filtering through the trees in Bryant Park where white people were “doing” tai chi, specks of light bouncing off the layers of humid atmosphere (baahh I usually don’t romanticize humidity like this. I’ve always hated it.  But it can make a pretty picture.) and hitting the sides of million-story buildings like….like….like [heartbreaking simile].

I know people have places to go. But we kind of need to look around and realize how amazing the morning grind can look sometimes.

Meteor showers and their blinding effect on childhoods

Tonight (or tomorrow morning, rather) will be the peak of this year’s Perseid Meteor Shower, an event that has been dazzling people for centuries. And while I probably won’t be able to see anything tonight (or tomorrow morning, rather) from my vantage point in one of the brightest spots on the planet during a predicted two-day overcast forecast, it brings me back to my seventh grade and my experience with the Leonids.

WTF, yo.

You see back then I was o-b-s-e-s-s-e-d with astronomy, for a variety of different reasons.  Two of them that I can presently identify are:

  1. Growing up in a city meant being able to count all the stars you see in the sky on just one hand.
  2. A Walk to Remember just came out, and Mandy Moore played a cute girl who liked the stars. And I liked Mandy Moore.

The Leonids were to come in on an early November morning, and the night before I begged my Dad to drive me out as far from the city as possible so I can see them.  Me being Asian and the next day being a school night and all, it was an absolute no go.  And I expected it, but I tried anyway.

So I want to sleep that night, absolutely devastated that my dream of seeing some celestial action was not going to achieve fruition, and I’d go into school that next morning a depressed, meteor-experience-less 7th grader in a polyester blue Catholic school uniform and clip-on tie.

But to my opposite-of-chagrin (happy surprise?), I was shaken awake (shaken awoke? shoken awake?) by my father the next morning at 4:30.  He was dressed in a heavy jacket and boots.  Me being Asian and us being inside and all, I was confused.

That sense of confusion did not leave as he stuffed me into a winter jacket and boots as well and proceed to push me out my second-story bedroom window. Don’t worry, my window opens onto the roof of the kitchen, which kind of juts out the back of the main building.  Against the outside wall of my bedroom was a ladder leading up to the roof-roof of the house.  I climbed it and saw my little sister lying down on a mat, also covered in winter gear. I joined her, and there we were the two of us, staring up at a city light-filled, orange sky.

I definitely didn’t see as many meteors that night as I would have had we driven out to the middle of nowhere. But I remember counting 64 meteors over a period of two hours.  The flashes of light bright and audastic enough to break through the light pollution reached me 64 times, and I was impressed, awed, and thankful.

I’m not as obsessed with astronomy as I used to be, mainly because I took an astronomy course first semester in college and it was more physics than astronomy and that kind of bummed me out to it.  Wow, that’s a terrible excuse.  I should start re-invigorating my passion.  It was such a good one too. I’ve never lost respect for the stars and planets, I’ve just drifted. Granted, I never intended on becoming an astrophysics major, but I still want to know more than just being able to identify Jupiter in the night sky.  Maybe I used to know that. Maybe I drifted it when I realized  how expensive it is to buy/make a nice telescope, the kind Shane West made for Many Moore in A Walk to Remember (jeez, I’m lame). I think it’s time for to revisit the skies.

Wah.  Thanks, Dad.

Why It’s So Freaking Hot in the Subway

If I were an investigative reporter, or if I had the mental energy right now to do some actual research, I’d look for some articles on air circulation in city undergroud rail systems.  However, I do not want to become an investigative reporter, nor do I have the energy to do some actual research on air circulation in city underground rail systems.  So I’ll just complain.

WHY ARE YOU SO HOT

Actually, it’s not some much complaining as an observation, because I like to think of myself as someone who doesn’t complain (which makes me a hypocrite because I know full well I’m complaning).

The subway, year-round, but particularly the summer months, have the habit of being just nasty.  It’s warm (like, very warm), humid (like, very humid), and it’s probably just as clean as a keyboard (which is just as dirty as it is boring).

A few hotspots:

  • The 4-5-6 Canal Street Stop
  • The E-M 53rd & 5th Stop
  • That God-forsaken tunnel between the N-Q-R 42nd Street Times Square Stop and Port Authority

That last one is pokes itself it the butt sometimes (I think I just made that euphamism up; I’m going for a makes-fun-of-itself type figure of speech).  Once you start the journey through that tunnel and realize it’s particularly dank in there, you have two options: 1) turn around and get onto the street, or 2) continue on in the hopes that Good Lord will have mercy on you today and make the experience a shorter one.

Now I read somewhere this past week that the London Underground was designed so tightly that there was no room to install air conditioning when the technology became available in the second half of the 20th century, which means that commuters have to endure scorching internal temperatures day in and out.  Upon reading such truthfact, I felt ashamed for being so whiny about my own Subway, which at least has beautiful AC within the cars themselves. Then I remembered going to London last year for a family visit, during one of London’s “heat waves”. UMM, NO. During that heat wave temperatures “soared” to like, 75 degrees Fahrenheit. I feel no sympathy.

Most people (all people) have no choice but to just get on with it.  And these people are my heroes. And since I am one of those people, I am my own hero. #selfesteem

All this gets me thinking. AND SO. From the depths of the broiling New York Subway, a list of personal heroes:

  • MTA Information booth workers
  • Homeless People
  • Crazy people with homes but choose to prophesy in the Subway anyway
  • Musical performers for tips
  • People who miss their train and have to wait 20 min for the next one
  • People who can’t fit in a crowded train and have to wait for the next one
  • Classy ladies who insist on wearing cardigans
  • Suits
  • People who run the platform magazine stands
  • Workers who remove and replace the posters on the wall
  • That one guy with the old broom who picks up pieces of paper
  • That Chinese lady who sells baby turtles
  • Metrocard machine repairpersons
  • Christian Fundamentalists preaching against the walls

Here’s to you.

The Benefits of Smiling

You’re in your late teens and home for the summer. In a brand new day and you’re expected to be at work in about an hour.  No big deal, you just gotta climb out of bed and make yourself look decent and get on the bus — wait, nope, that’s your mom who hasn’t been called into work that morning and wants you to take the time to eat a good balanced breakfast.  Mom is excellent and loving and wants the best for you, who are in your late teens but still kind of immature and had this been any other era of history, you’d already be married with three kids, who are also working. At a steel factory.

You oblige to her motherly wishes and eat your Kix, which kind of taste different from how your remember them as a child and bear some sort of corny aftertaste that hadn’t been there before.  You declare it kinda nasty but finish it up. A quick glance at the microwave clock proclaims that unless you start moving, you’re going to miss the bus.

Weird.

After gathering your things and running barefoot to the car to get your shoes, you run down the block and stare down the boulevard for the 125 bus.  It doesn’t come. You missed the bus.

The morning was okay until that very moment.  But by all important accounts, your morning had just turned “bad”.  The problem lies in the idea of grouping together subsequent moments of consciousness by where those moments find themselves during the day. We dictate the quality of the whole morning by the present we’re presently experiencing. It also works the other way.  We dictate the quality of the present moment by the whole morning.

Now I’m generally gestalt about things.  The bigger picture in politics, culture, music, etc., is much more significant for us as a people than the minute details of things.  That said, the minute details sometimes tend to have huge ramifications on the gestalt.  And if Mrs. Wakefield never ran out of chocolate for her chocolate cookies, the chocolate chip cookie would never have been born and I’d have five fewer cavity-related dentist appointment stories to tell today.

The hard part is defining “a moment”.  I’m not going to worry about that now, though.  My title is “the Benefits of Smiling”, so I’m going to have to figure out how to tie that in to what I’m saying. Ummm.

Oh! So yeah, I’m feeling cruddy – I mean, you’re feeling cruddy because your mom’s like “You should have gotten up earlier!” and you’re (very immaturely) like “I didn’t want to eat breakfast in the first place!” and your mom’s like “Worst excuse ever!” and you’re like “Yeah I know”.  The fact that your mom’s upset only makes you yourself upset and then anxieties that have nothing to do with anything creep up and you suddenly find yourself frowning and it sucks.

What’s a physical remedy for this?

  1. Pull the corners of your mouth up.
  2. That’s it.

Smiling makes you feel better. Thoughts are fleeting.  I’m not even sure the pinpointing of thoughts can be done on a time scale like tangible events. I’m not even sure time scales are a valid way to look at time.  I don’t even really understand time, but I’m not an astrophysics major, so it’s not my problem </lame excuse to not know something>. But smiling is physical.  Whatever the true nature of time is (Literature plug! Read From Eternity to Here: the Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time by Sean Carroll), if you’re smiling now, you’re consciously breaking off this very moment from the infinitely crappy moments you’re tempted to bunch together to classify a crappy morning.

Yes, it doesn’t get rid of your problems (unless, like, there’s someone giving you a problem because you’re not smiling.  In that case, please leave North Korea). But you are choosing to be an outward testimony to someone who just might need that smile more than you.

I know it’s kind of “in” right now to complain.  In fact, that’s a pretty sure way to make friends with those who are frustrated by the same stuff.  And for me, personally, it’s hard to smile knowing those around me are feeling anxiety over something (read: my slowness in the morning getting ready). But it’s worth a shot.  It doesn’t find you the right path in life, and it doesn’t automatically usher in a wave of ecstatic fun no matter what you’re doing, but we need it.

🙂