This one is a doosy. If this is your first time to my blog, I'd highly suggest reading some older posts before taking a stab at this one.
When driving from Austin to Houston you eventually encounter a curve about half-way that sends you Eastward on I-10. I remember in college hearing that a friend had passed away there along with a girl who sat in the passenger seat. Looking at it, the outside of the left turn doesn't have any railing at all. If you weren't paying attention for 30 seconds you could easily fly right off. Every time I pass by that section of the freeway I think of them and their last moments.
Suspended in air.
The impact of the collision.
The heat of the car's insides spewing everywhere.
I drive as close as I can to the inside of the curve.
The past few months, have yet again, been a roller-coaster ride of emotion.
The following bit was written during a low:
"Pat's doing well." That's the general consensus now. I'm working, I'm living the bay life. I'm getting drones in the mail as gifts, I'm still consuming all of these fine foods and drinks.
The thing is, I can't shake the feeling of being estranged to it all.
Sitting in the back seat of Brett's SUV, Elenor told me about her friends at school and how they were being mean to her, "I asked all of my friends to play with me but they wouldn't." I wish I could have told her something to console her, but it instantly reminded me of my situation right now.
Whether it's my fault or not, I have very few true friends. I try to deal with the loneliness, but it's eating at me.
Although very similar to depression, loneliness feels distinctly different. It hits later in the day, and instead of being something I'd want to personify(depression to me feels like a voice in your head that you can argue against), loneliness doesn't have a mind of it's own, it's just this big black void.
An encroaching, all-consuming, nothingness.
When you're alone even your thoughts don't have a friend.
I've been working my balls off. Who would have thought?
The first 4 weeks of my new job was spent working non-stop. We had a sharp due date of launching a re-design of our company's website, which was 200+ pages.
Go to work, go home and work some more, wake up and think about working before going to work, even on weekends.
The site has been launched, and it's a huge relief.
In comparison to my previous job, I'm finding my tasks easy to break into chunks and finish piece by piece. I feel generally appreciated by my coworkers and I think we get along quite well.
I'm even starting to learn a bit of design, It's all pretty dope.
My last trip was for EVO, which was in late July. I again, coaxed Matt into driving me somewhere.
Santa Cruz, why not? I liked it quite a bit from my first time visiting. Let's go.
Most of the time was spent with Matt hitting up multiple skate spots, and me realizing no matter what I wanted to do, it lied in this extremely small downtown area. Having time to burn, I tried to get a haircut, but it seemed every single salon in the city was booked for the next 2 weeks, which felt odd since Santa Cruz feels like a town with not much going on.
We went shopping/thrifting and Matt bought some hilarious "dad clothes." I picked up a Chasity Belt record that seemed to call to me from a distance.
One of Matt's childhood friends said they were having a house party. It all seemed quite rushed and we had to get there ASAP. It was probably going to be wild, nuts, and have tons of alcohol, we were told to pick up a pineapple, oh boy.
There wasn't even time to go to a "fun" place for dinner. We ate at a fucking Whole Foods.
Upon entering the site of the "party" I was quickly offered a tiki inspired drink, "Here we go" I thought to myself. The thing I wasn't expecting was, I was asked, "How many cats do you want?"
I was offered a tray full of these plastic cats that you can use to put on the edge of your cup, I got two.
Okay I get it now. These guys are grad students. They're slightly eccentric, but nothing that I wasn't used to. College vibes. They made a comment on how we didn't bring a reusable bag to the supermarket.
I felt immediately relived at this moment.
They even made one of the hugest bowls of guacamole I've ever seen.
Low and behold, it was the 150th anniversary of the Santa Cruz boardwalk! Let's go see some fireworks.
We set off into the night, walking at an extremely fast pace. Someone said, "This is my normal walking speed when I'm walking around campus." I was barely able to keep up.
The fireworks started before we arrived. *Boom*
We passed by a blur of people peeking out of their small businesses, beach-side motels, and those taking a break from dinner.
The special moment seems to awaken this sleepy town. The glow casted a beautiful shade of wonderment on everyone.
Finally arriving at the boardwalk, we could clearly start to see fireworks. The thing is, I could have really cared less about the fireworks, I was more focused on the entrancement and emotion from the people watching them.
"How can I be less estranged? I've seen fireworks before... big whoop. But how can I be in this moment?"
I tried to take a photo of people looking into the sky; the wonderment, the range of emotion, but no firework photo can quite match that one I took so many years ago on the fourth of July in Boston.
One of the girls, Maria (we were told that the proper way to say her name was with a Spanish accent), lead us to a house close by. She somehow had the key to this older ladies place, and we all followed her to a nice outdoor patio. We sat there, the fireworks still booming overhead, the glitter of lights, out of focus, disparaging into the background, as we passed around a decent bottle of Chardonnay that I had bought earlier.
Suddenly this moment seemed more spontaneous, unique.
We went to a bowling alley that also had a back bar with Karaoke. It all felt like something from a different time era, a slice of Americana.
I went with my go to song, "My Way" by Fastball. Singing it says, "Despite my appearance, I grew up here in America, in a sleepy suburb, just like you. I was right fucking there, and I know this song so well you can't deny it." It feels weird having such a tender bond with my upbringing. It may have been all Capri-sun commercials and Nickleodean, but the end of the day it's still culture, and it's ingrained into me.
Not in the mood to get a last second $200 hotel room Matt and I ended up driving back to Oakland after midnight. We were tired. Our last memory of our day trip was at a random diner, which was huge, totally empty, grossly over staffed with an enormous menu. I ordered eggs, sausage, and hashbrowns - probably the safest thing to get in that circumstance.
They still had pay phones. What a time warp.
As work started, I still found time to go to George and Lennie twice a week.
There's something about the way the cafe's speakers render audio. The guitar in acoustic songs ring and reverberate, there's a hallow yet deep ping in the percussion, the high's soar high without clipping.
Angel Olsen, Chasity belt... I'm slowly piecing together my dream record collection.
Records in 2016? right? haha.
For it's birthday, there was live music and performances and Brett got a large coffee cup shaped pinata filled with bouncing balls and candy. Nathan came by with a bottle of Amaro as a gift.
I've always thought I'd lose my car in some sort of epic scenario... like finally breaking down on a cross country road trip, crashing into something, or like putting it into neutral and sending down a hill into the ocean.
I remember skipping school and parking outside of a friend's house and sleeping there the whole day, hiding.
Packing in all my college roommate's and my belongings and driving back to Houston for Summer break.
Going to my friends apartment and trying craft beer for the first time. I liked Shiner, so I could hang right? We got a dopplebock and dogfish head 90 minute IPA among other things. I couldn't get past the heavy bitterness, but I still plowed through those beers, got back into my car because I was too lazy to walk 4 blocks, and backed into what I thought was a house. Luckily it was just a poll, too low to see out the rear view mirror. That hole has been on my bumper ever since, I never bothered to fix it.
Packing all of my most cherished belongings into it and driving out to San Francisco.
For the past half year or so, I had parked my car underneath this highway overpass for 3 weeks at a time before ever checking up on it. The day Matt and I left for Santa Cruz, we drove past the spot I had last left it and it was gone. Turns out a tow lot had the car there for over 3 weeks, and the fine was over $2300. To relinquish the fee I gave them the title and keys to it. I no longer needed it, I was moving to the city where a car would have been even more of a burden.
Good bye car.
I've gone to Nathan's new restaurant Nomica... probably 7 or more times at this point. It's safe to say that I like it.
I wrote a review, which was heavily edited by Umami Mart: http://blog.umamimart.com/2016/10/nomica/
My criticisms, which were left out of the post, are that the music and decor aren't great and the food is inconsistent. (I was a bit harsher than that)
I think the owners are too scared of creating an environment that's outside of people's comfort-zones, which doesn't make sense given the sophistication of the drink and food menu. It's a shame.
But definitely try Nomica! Go on a Wednesday, Friday, or Saturday and sit at the bar. Get lots of drinks!
At the end of one of my meals at Nomica, we decided to have after dinner tea. It was an enlightening decision. There's an oolong tea that they have from Song Tea called "Buddha's hand" that's just the perfect... mellow, deep, earthy, chocolaty way to end a meal. It sucks out the sweetness that's still lingering in your mouth from dessert, the warmth flows through you, calming you down at first, and then the caffine kicks in, giving you a temporary jolt of energy, a tea high.
On a quiet Sunday afternoon, after it had been raining the whole morning, I found myself at Song Tea. I arrived in my usual fashion, hot and sweaty, especially from having the humidity in the air trapped within my non-breathable rain jacket while I got lost in a neighborhood I've never walked around before.
Seeing that there was a group in the middle of a tea tasting, I sat in a lounge chair and read some of the new issue of Cereal Magazine. There's a small insert that has a story about a girl growing up in the US that was forced to move to Korea that I liked quite a bit.
I soon found myself the only customer left in the store, and the owners still offered a tasting to me. 3 teas, chosen from anywhere in the range of teas that they had.
I started with a white, which sucked the heat out of my body, an instant calm.
I'm not going to bore you with the details of each cup, but I did find the their whole "ritual" of brewing tea very soothing. The wait while the water is warming up, the measuring of the tea leaves, an initial small pour of water just to extract the fragrance from the tea, the small tiny tea cups for each taste, the way you bring air into each mouthful of tea to aerate it, each subsequent steep... the repetition. The whole process reminds me very much of the photo dark room. There's room for things to trickle, spill over, be wet. But in the end everything is weighed, timed, and deliberate.
If I meet you today, I'll be the first to tell you how this tea kettle has changed everything for me. I have seen the light. I can never go back. You're probably getting one for christmas, your wedding gift, your birthday, etc.
In my dark times, I found myself purchasing a series of "self-help" zines titled "ANXIETY, DEPRESSION, DEFRIENDING" written by a supposed PHD. So far I've only read the defriending one(the other topics too scary at the time delve into) and it helped me out quite a bit.
In adult life, there's really no reason you should hangout with people that make you feel bad. It's as simple as that.
Up to this point, life has always felt like a race, a competition.
If you're reading this now, chances are that you're alive. Congrats, we made it.
We've all somehow figured out how to survive until this point, and that's commendable. We all have different goals and come from varying levels of wealth, base values, and levels of determination and commitment.
We're all so different.
The thought of that seems to send my mind for a trip.
You guys know how I am about food, right? The connoisseur, the reviewer, the guy with the insider view and connection.
My opinions now, especially after the fact that most of you guys have ate at more Micheline star restaurants and are more well traveled than me, hold very little weight.
It's hard for me to make a recommendation because I can't guarantee you'll have the same wonderful time at a restaurant as me based on so many different factors. My experiences are unique, and they're special to me.
For me, at this point, it's more important that I have taken a stake in my own little part of the world, than it is to have crossed things off a checklist, to consistently have the best of the best, and to experience things "the correct way."
We've always been told what we should value. It's been instilled in us in all the media we've ever consumed since we were kids, and most of us are trapped in that world. Social media tends to be a new breed of the same, borderline-propaganda level, stuff. It all feels so direct. Ideas are affirmed in an instant, as if likes are telling us what to do more of, what path to go down, when the unpopular path could yield something more fruitful or unique. Even our friends are selling things to us. When I scroll through, I can't avoid the bad thoughts, it really turns me against everyone... and because of that I'm trying to interact with it less.
Matt and I want to go up on stage and just repeat "Facebook, twitter, instagram, linked-in, tinder." over and over until people leave. It's gotten to that point.
It's great that you guys are doing whatever, please continue to share. I becoming more aware that, like mine, your experiences are your own. They're special to you, and that's wonderful and worth sharing.
But if you find yourself empty and unfulfilled chasing these things, there's a high likelihood you've been on a wild goose chase this whole time with no real goal line. This may be a very "silicon valley" angle, but at this point in our lives, we can be whoever we want to be.
Don't let the baggage of others' expectations for you hold you down.
At this moment, I'm at a high. Almost everything seems to be going well. I have a job that I like at an amazing company filled with people I genuinely enjoy being around, I have my own apartment in the direct center of one of the most urban cities in the world, my experiences seem to be unique and authentic. I'm a lot less lonely.
It's so easy to go to Karaoke.
I live right above George and Lennie, and their next project is a creative coworking space across the street called "Get High on Mountains" (link to their instagram)
I'm going to say this now:
I think my angst is gone.
That's right... I think my angsty years are behind me.
How do I know? How am I coming to this conclusion?
I'm sitting in a cafe in Houston. I haven't been here for over 2 years.
I haven't spoken a word to my parents in 2 years.
Sure I've thought about them, they could have died, something bad could have happened, etc. I still never contacted them, blocked them on everything. I even ran when they visited(the fact that they were out looking for me signaled to me that they were alive, which was enough for me). I slept in a private bathroom in the office and friend's house for a week.
Sure, hate me because of this. I see the "I want someone who treats his mom nicely" and "family is most important" on a ton of people's profiles. If you view me any differently now that you know this, you can go ahead and fuck off. You don't know me. (To me theres a distinction between teenage angst and having an attitude. :P) Sure I'm Asian and my parents were first generation immigrants, but my upbringing was different than yours, I can't relate to most of you.
It's taken me up to this point to be able to confront, and hopefully now control, all the rage, angst, and straight-up anger that I have had within me.
On paper, they never deserved to be ghosted, they've given me everything. To this day, I still believe I was the most spoiled kid out of anyone I've known, by far. I was never hit, not once. I'm pretty sure I've made my parents spend more money on pokemon cards and gundam models than your new car.
But when it became apparent very late in life that I was living in a bubble made just for me, everything changed. I felt lied to.
I was told to fear everything outside the realm of the house. I didn't bike around the neighborhood, I didn't travel much until after high school(I still have an ingrained fear of travel). Home was bountiful, safe, and fun. I was destined for something great, I was the smartest, the best at everything.
There was a lapse in this story sometime in high school. Suddenly school was difficult, I lived with just my dad for a few years, I got a car and had more freedom. When I first started to take photography seriously, my favorite genre quickly became street photography, which is the art of observing. It gave me a way to start answering my curiosities of this strange world around me. It gave me a way to relate, to exist in a world larger than myself.
Even though these cracks seemed to appear as early as high school, to this day I don't think I've "fully" left the fairy tail. My adult life has been a battle of trying to find my place in my definition of "real" society.
I can largely describe my personality as a mix of someone who has grown to be very cynical of the environment around him - someone who puts up a dull emotionless wall to anything around him, and that of a kind little kid, still in that dream world.
I bounce between the 2, have you noticed?
This trip for the most part has been completely normal. There's been a slight decay of things, but in general, everything is the same. I drove my mom to the Galleria so she could buy a Black Friday laptop. We ate at Goodie Taqueria, my dad got tons of salsa and burger toppings from the salad bar even though we ordered omelettes. I'm amazed at the amount of food the 2 of them can consume(they're both quite skinny). It's surreal, in the way that everything has stayed the same, and that my darkest fears didn't happen. But I know this won't be permanent. The hand of time is moving through us.
At 26 I can say, I'm okay with being weird. I'm okay with my family being weird. I'm mostly okay with the past and everything that's happened to me. I'm happy that I went through so many awkward social interactions later in life while trying to figure it out.
Because what's special about being cookie cutter? Things seem to becoming more and more standardized, perfectly white balanced. It's all so unachievable, so boring. How do we define normalcy in this strange world? How do we utilize our unique desires and personalities?
Like smelling the fragrance of a cup of freshly steeped oolong tea. I feel a calm has washed over me.
Hi adult self. Yes... I'll start contributing to my 401k...
In my latest zine, "Jump Cut" I wrote this on the back as a closing remark:
"Adult life seems to sprawl out into a universe of uncertainty.
I fear the endless possibilities, the missed opportunities, the speed at which life passes me by.
I use photography to find a comfort in a small moment, a close interaction, a sliver of time and space."
Even with my newfound stability, I'm still worried. I'm slightly older than most of my peers and I still feel younger and inexperienced. While there's a voice in my head telling me, "It's okay! You're unique, you don't have to feel bad since you hold yourself to different values, be forever young, be free!"
I can't help but feel like there's something approaching around the corner. There's going to be an inevitable impact that will, for lack of a better phrase, shatter me. I can't live life carefree. There's going to be an age where I can't do the things that are open to me right now. There will be a time where my opportunities and wonderment with the world will be calcified.
I feel as if, most of the time, the magic has faded. I'm no longer as wide eyed as I once was.
However, every now and then there are brief moments that I truly find myself in a sense of wonder.
It was the day after I had finished moving all of my possessions out of my old Oakland apartment into my SF studio.
Ashley said she wanted to check out the graveyard in Piedmont. "Oh I've been there before, it's cool." was my response text to her.
It turns out she specifically wanted to see a place called "Chapel of the Chimes" which was featured in some sort of cult scavenger hunt. I had biked past this place before, dismissing it for a funeral home.
Walking through I could smell a faint scent of incense. Every path seemed to open up into another large compartment, all filled with memorials and graves sprinkled with a pattern of fresh flowers for the recently remembered and empty placeholders for the long forlorned. The only sound was made from the trickling of fountains, the occasional chirp from a single bird. Light gushed through from the sky, lush greenery filled every nook that wasn't cast in stone.
The playbook in my head which tends to over-plan and map everything out is often wrong. Please let it be wrong for eternity.
Another weekend we went to some place in Golden Gate Park. It was less impressive. At least we got jjajangmyeon after.
I could have easily stayed in my Oakland apartment for another year. But why wait? Why be comfortable? For me, something needs to be constantly shaken, there needs to be constant movement. In moving to my new 350sq ft apartment I threw away half of my possessions, it felt so freeing.
I had a small apartment warming party. There was a point where there were 10 of us sitting in a circle on my carpet.
We went up to the roof and sat around a fireplace. It felt nice to be surrounded by friends.
These are weird times. During our company retreat, after at first telling us everything was going to be fine, our CEO had his professor, who's taught at Harvard Business School for over 30 years, in a room with over 400 people, tell us in a 2 hour lecture that he's worried about what's to come.
Never before have I looked so hard at who I am and what I stand for.
It's easy to close your eyes and let time pass.
Suddenly you're suspended, in that instance before the final impact.
It's not time to be still.
Again. I am happy. The happiest I've ever been. I really hope I can maintain what I have going for me now and use it as a launch pad to do more with my time. It's the end of the year and I haven't done any of the goals I set out in my previous posts. It's okay though, as far as personal development goes, this year has been quite productive... don't you think?
Come over to my new place for some tea sometime.
The above pic is of Ariel and her new Contax G2 that she bought unknowingly from a local photography legend Joe Aguirre, who's a member of the Burn My Eye collective.