A new bakery called Craftsman & Wolves opened in San Francisco’s Mission district a couple weeks ago and with it came a radical, spectacularly delicious new treat called The Rebel Within. It’s a savory sausage-, scallion- and cheese-infused muffin with a perfectly…
something something karaoke with strangers, lots of black label johnny, the girl who understands, long haired canadian waifs, probably the nicest guy in the world, a swiss financier who rapidly devolved into a class A creep, a slightly sleepy 33-year old, canadians, soft spoken pinoys, more taylor swift than i’ve ever put up with since living with j., understanding love songs, understanding break up songs, late-late-night kfc, and feeling unabashedly happy, if somewhat aware of my age and my hoarseness, for the first time in a while.
After several confusingly hazy days, the sun has finally escaped from its prison of smog. Dusk is serene, even in the hinterlands of Shanghai: the last bits of rose glinting off the tops of skyscrapers; toddlers scampering through the green (green everywhere); the smells of dinner and charcoal wafting in through my half-cracked window; and the wavering, pure notes of a reed flute, soaring into humid air as the city slowly lights its lamps.
Shanghai beckons, and I know I should be out there living it up - wandering the winding streets on the other side of the river, or inhaling the smoke and sweat and (free) booze, or Being Young. But I’ll pass, on the pretenses of working, working overtime on my project like the overeager intern I never was. Or of letting my jet-lagged boss/roommate back into the apartment, so he can muster a few hours of rests before he plasters on a smile and genial laughter and a firm handshake. And hell, messing around on Excel until 1am doesn’t sound all that pathetic when you consider the alternative (reality?): curling up on my poor excuse of a futon, armed with a bar Ikea chocolate, a full bottle of Tsing-Tao, a half-used box of tissues, a bag for the used tissues, and a harddrive full of Parks and Recreation. All this sad scenario is missing is a cat. And maybe some knitting.
I have a strangely clear memory when it comes to my clothes. Take for example, this rather uncharacteristic (for my wardrobe) er, half-sweatshirt? Basically a gray velour, v-necked pullover sweatshirt with coiled pink cord, central banded in gray, twisted about like a alpha protein helix. A shrunken length, suitable for my body type (all legs, no waist, gives a general impression of HIPS everywhere when not fitted with well-tailored clothing). Mom picked it up randomly at Walmart or something, on one of her impulse sales buys. It’s nothing special, in fact, it’s pretty ugly, but when I picked it up a memory came rushing at me.
I’ve worn this thing like three times, twice during a finals/midterms cramming haze. And I remember running into 30B, and slipping into the middle of the frontish row in a seat next to J. Sol and Wes were directly in front, L was close by. J.C. sat somewhere in the back with a Stephen and a bunch of Asian chicks. So were people who would eventually become familiar figures in my life and um, in engineering gossip circles. Sadly I don’t remember were Ed was - but knowing him, probably passed out around the corner, not too far away.
Now, if my memory was actually useful, I’d be able to tell you what the hell Chatterjee was lecturing about. Or-BYE-tals, and such, probably. But I don’t remember that, beyond passing out promptly in the first ten minutes of class. I do remember, however, class ending a little bit earlier. I remember us loitering for a bit, in that central area, J and Sol and Wes and some other dude (sadly, I can’t remember who, beyond Asian. Squishy?). I remember everyone commenting on the appearance of this new article of clothing. I remember L. passing by to say hi, Wes joking about pulling on the cords, Sol commenting that they looked like noodles..and promptly yanking on them. Hard. J. laughing in her way at this all. I just remember useless shit like that. Comforting useless shit.
Today I also found my prom dress (simple, white, $15 at Ross), my sister’s prom dress (dramatically long, icy blue, lace up back. She tore up her photos afterward), and the dress I wore to my 8th grade promotion (paisley, in a wonderful cerulean. Would wear it if I ever got close to 100lbs again). But yeah, is this a deconstruction of my clothes-hording tendencies or something? Whatever you’re all going to Salvation tomorrow. I desperately need the closet space.
today, a young boy biked up to a fallen tree wrapped with caution tape, bent over the sad trunk, and straightened, victorious, waving an entire yellow roll at an empty street, our car his only witness.
today, i visited what may have well been the poshest mobile home in history, resplendent with lush carpets, leather bound books, and sunlight. today, i was gifted a well-worn camel suitcase filled with a treasure trove of pastel fabrics, two ao dai, a lovingly doilied scarf, and three half-embroidered pieces; a food dehydrator; two cups of matcha and a lindt dark chocolate crunch bonbon; and best of all, three ghost stories that were spiritual stories that were really love stories. today, as i watched a face become animated and alive for the first time in months, i might have wanted to believe again.
another week, another funeral. there was a time in my childhood when it seemed like everybody in our tangled network of family and friends was getting married. these days incense clouds my memories, tendrils of smoke dancing lazily in the air as mustard yellow sticks crumble into graying ashes. the clack of rosary beads and relentless singsong ave, marias fill my ears, occasionally interrupted by the thrum of sutras.
there is some beauty creeping under the sorrow: the muted joy of reunion of relatives and friends united. flaky layers of pate choud crumbling in my mouth, leaving me tongue tied as i bow low to yet another pair of black eyes, another head with graying black hair. perfume rising from my fingers as i pluck petals and scatter them into the grave. the secret pleasure that this very american me can take part in such ancient traditions: white on white on white, the rag-clad eldest son and daughter bearing a gilt-framed portrait, northern voices raised in that rich lilting melody.
every new service grows more tragic - not because time dulls memory, but more because every service hits closer to home. every face grows a little more familiar, every death more unexpected. the wispy-bearded face of a grandpa finally at peace yields to the shy smile of the boy whose body is riddled with gunshots yields to the confused expression of a woman who has lost her memory to cancer. and i can still hear my cousin’s wail as she collapses onto the polished coffin, the sharp-edged keen a sword that pierces my heart.
(spring is coming, just as the rabbit nips at the tail of the tiger. spring is coming, and when others swathe themselves in red and gold, we will bury the ashes of one named Spring in a world of black and white.)
yes, it seems that these days,that melody with its lilting minors sings me to sleep, that rough white cotton of mourning cloth chafes the skin of my brow. these days tendrils of fear creep slowly into my heart as i watch my father watch the mechanical clock, both of us watching the hands tick inexorably forward, watching and waiting.
For this lovely Yuletide season, my dear cousin (I say this unironically. We get along great) gave my aunt a gift that truly embodied the Meaning of Christmas. It was the gift of piety. After a nine-year hiatus, he would voluntarily go to Confession and he would enthusiastically drag his ass to Midnight Mass with the rest of the family. My aunt, being a Tong, and thus, Really Damn Catholic, was ecstatic. My mother and her other sisters responded to this news with the barest glints of tears in their eyes.
My first thought was, “Who did he murder now?”
And then wondered when I became such a blackhearted cynic.
…”And just remember that Europe is just and old man with a good reputation. See you soon.”
…thank you Pelle and your beautiful nonpresent korean-adoptee wife. Thank you danish people (medemarie of beret and charades and impeccable accents, sophia passed out on the floor, leo of late introductions, bert the eldest child of belgium, martin the ee bonded in civil union to la/cal bear cassie of cal/art history fame). and even you, nick of usc persuasion and your hassling of our dear little first year and wikileaks arguments. it was a good night.
danish dill herring and caraway schnapps completed it. i haven’t been this drunk, for oh, a very long time. Skaal indeed.