At this age, I feel like there's this immense pressure. To be impressive, to be fashionable, to have some special sort of knowledge, to be truly in your "prime."
During my recent trip to New York, I had a conversation with Jenny Fan, a friend from High School whom I haven't seen in over 7 years. She has a really cool project called 20, interviewing 20 something year olds, and wanted to interview me for it. Prior to meeting her I read a few of them. All of these people seem to be on track, determined, and on their way to achieving something. I decided to just wing the interview, which was probably a bad idea.
I mentioned to her that I feel as if I'm living my "plan B" to which her reply was "Then what's your plan A?" I really couldn't think of anything in particular. I'm paralyzed by choice. For the most part I let the flow of life just take me along, only making a drastic move every now and then having really gone down a bad path.
- Would I like to be a well known photographer? Yes.
- Would I like to be the curator of a photo gallery and have a cute gift shop with well chosen items? Yes.
- Would I continue to program? I believe so.
What am I doing to achieve the things that I want? Nothing.
This paralysis can even be found in my weekend choices:
"What do I want to do today? Where should I go to eat? How will I get there?"
I lay in bed, go back to sleep for another hour, and repeat this process until it's already the afternoon.
Maybe I feel a lack of purpose. A lack of need to really do anything.
I haven't made a post since before Thanksgiving. What have I been up to since then?
I had a great week long trip back to Texas, where I met up with old friends who I hadn't seen in months. I caught up with Sharon over brunch, who's always upto something wholesome and meaningful. We went over to Keith's studio and to the AHOM exhibit at the Museum of Human Achievement afterwards.
The AHOM exhibit was really cool. They changed the entire warehouse into a parody of IKEA. I really admire the people who contribute to The Museum of Human Achievment. I've had the most original, unique, and powerful experiences out of any museum or gallery I've been to, and I hope Austin's community notices that and empowers them to do more.
I showed my cousins around Austin. Despite being quite close to them growing up, I have been sort of out of the loop with my family for the past year or so due to my "Bohemian-esque" lifestyle. I believe I took them on a legitimate tour of the city: Chicon (yes I showed them Chicon) => Vera Cruz tacos => Bike tour down the Bird Lake Trail => Brew & Brew => Odd Duck for dinner. Of course my relatives had a bunch of questions regarding my past, the people I was hanging out with in Austin, and what I'm doing now, which was all relatively smoothed over by explaining the salary I make, and my employee stock purchasing program(ESPP).
I really don't know why they went to Austin, they found out I was flying through there and magically they were visiting for a few days. They used the excuse that my younger cousin, who is in his junior of high school was looking at UT as a potential school. I know some members of my family read this blog, but I have to say I feel immencely sorry for him and his situation. I truly believe that he's brilliant and talented. He really has a great heart and character. But he's feeling a lot of pressure from his family to "not be a failure." This again reminds me of my conversation with Jenny. What is success? How has it's definition changed from our parents generation to ours? Where do our passions lie, are there different ways we can carve out a life?
Is life all about doing well in school, so you can go to a great college, so you can find a stable job and repeat? Is that success? Is that happiness?
For most of the people who read this blog, the world our parents made for us is so comfortable that there's no real sense of urgency, no way we can really "fail." There's no way we can fall, scratch our knees, and grow because of it.
It's our life, we only have one... and time's passing by really fast.
I mainly got this job simply to prove that I could. But does the proof lie in me simply reaching this "level" or does it lie in sticking with it for the years to come until I'm already middle aged, have a family, and in my parents position? In many ways I have an amazing job, level of lifestyle for a 25 year old, but I have no appreciation for the things I have. The sad part is I don't think I ever will.
God I just want to tell him that he's going to be just fine. I really do mean it.
I got a ride back to Austin from Madeline. It was really nice seeing her again and catching up with each other during the 2 hour ride. It felt sort of surreal, as if no time had passed at all since the last time I saw her. I remember her doing her make up in her Honda CRV on the drive over, and when we got to Austin she revealed that she was wearing a crop top under the blue dress shirt that she normally wears. She really looked like a million bucks.
And off I went back to SF.
The weeks seem to all meld together in the Bay Area. I was really happy that friends such as JW and Taylor came for a visit, and I've enjoyed spending time with a few friends here, but it's really not regular enough.
I am meeting new people as well, but encorperating them into my weekly routine has proved to be challenging.
We had our company holiday party in the middle of January. It totally reminded me of the party scene from the first episode of Silicon Valley, but was a fun night since I had a beautiful date =). When we tried to go to Festa karaoke afterwards it was closed for a private party... luckily there were still some places open.
The most notible art exhibit that I've been to recently is by Tetsuya Ishida, a deceased painter who depicts his take on modern Japanese culter. It's at The Asian Art Museum in SF until Feb 22.
The main purpose of my recent trip to New York was to see if I truly "lost the fire." To return to where I had my first taste of urban life, where I discovered my passion for photography.
In general it was a good trip. I didn't think the weather would be that much of a factor, but boy... it was very very cold. Having boarded the plane at 9:20AM on Thursday it was already 6PM when I arrived due to the 3 hour loss.
We went to Kang Hodong Baekjeong a Korean BBQ chain that a lot of celebrity chefs like Eddie Huang and David Chang have been going to recently.
I mean... yeah this was definitely the best Korean BBQ I've ever had, not miles better than most places, but definitely the best. We ordered a beef and pork set, along with soju, makkoli, and honeydew soju. The range of flavors we experienced ranged from "this tastes just like a cheese burger" to mouth melting umami of a piece of well marbled beef to the weird gelatinous and gritiness of pork jowl. I really liked the creamed corn and egg "basins" located around the grill, oh and our server was super jolly and polite, which made the meal even more entertaining.
I woke up late on Friday and took the subway to meet up with Laurence. I think this was my first time taking the Subway alone in New York. Excuse me for stating the obvious, but it's more convenient than Bart in SF or any other public transit I've taken in the US. Subway cars leave very frequently, and you just have to know what line you want to go on, whether you're going up or downtown, and how many stops to count before you get off.
Laurence's office is right next to MoMA, which happens to be right next to the Halal Guys on 53rd and 6th. The only thing bad about Halal food is when you feel it the next morning on the toilet. What's not to like about a huge helping of creamy, spicy, charred-meaty goodness?
After I headed to my company's New York office. Walking up the stairs from the subway, I noticed a gritty looking convenience store nestled into the subway stop itself. I really wanted to take a photo of it, it looked straight out of a distopian punk future. But I didn't. This has happened to me so many times recently. I simply don't take the photo. Like a scared bitch.
The interior of our New York location looks exactly the same as the SF or Redwood City locations. Since our engineering team usually starts work at 10:30 PST, you really don't start going much until past noon if you're on the East coast.
After work, I met up with Laurence and we headed to Sushi Nakazawa.
3 different grades of toro.
I know you've heard that the most important aspect of sushi is the rice. I remember back at my first omakase 5 years ago at Sushi of Gari, the rice felt electric when it hit my tounge. Thinking about it, it's a function of a lot of things. The rice is around body temperature, and to have something enter your mouth that's "natural" in temperature... is kind of erotic don't you think?
Also I've noticed that each grain of rice is really well pronounced, giving a textural difference from the soft fish. Body temperature warmth, contrasting with the cool temperature of the fish, with each piece offering a variety of flavor, sweetness, umami. Sushi is a beautiful thing.
That being said, I found the rice at Sushi Nakazawa a tad bit too warm. He said he used different kinds of seaweed for different roles... which was exemplified by the crab-maki we had, it was just on a totally different level than any other piece of sushi I've had.
I think the best part about the restaurant is that they didn't make me feel like a total noob. The sake pairing was amazing, the largest take away from it is that now I'm going to be on the look for unpasturized sake, rather than just asking for an unfiltered or filtered sake. The chef's didn't give us the stink eye when we tried to take photos, for the most part they were fun about it. There was a guy who got an extra piece of uni for his birthday, and after Laurence briefly said "It's your birthday too Pat!" Out of nowhere 2 huge helpings of uni appeared in front of us.
Slightly colder in temperature than most uni I've had, it really felt like I was eating a creamy custard of the sea.
When you're dining with a partner, if they go to the restroom, Nakazawa will actually serve the rest of the bar first, and wait until he or she gets back. Also when we were eating our handroll course, Laurence dropped his on the floor... and again, out of nowhere a new piece of sushi appeared in front of him.
The service ended with his famous tamago-yaki. Would I recommend this place? Yes.
Not feeling any jetlag at all, the next morning I woke up Laurence around 8AM (5AM PST...). We went out for coffee at La Columbe Torrefaction, bagels at Russ & Daughters, and chicken and waffles at Sweet Chick.
Even though it wasn't snowing outside, the wind chill felt like a razor. We took our lox and cream cheese bagels over to a Whole Foods to eat, which were amazing even on a cold day. Sweet Chick wasn't great, I had the worst bloody mary of my life there, and yeah, 2 out 5 stars yo.
We took the subway to MoMA PS1, which I hadn't even known about before this trip. Besides a very niche part of photography, I know very little about art. My first real exposure to contemporary art was during my last trip to New York, I always thought "This stuff is so weird, why would anyone make this? Also, why the hell is this stuff here?"
For me, most of the time it's not even about the art. Sure I'll find an exhibit that I really vibe with, but I'm just happy that there's a place, even for a limited moment of time, where I can enter a space where these pieces exist. A place that's totally removed from the pace of normal life, where I can see, hear, feel, touch... something totally different.
I browsed their bookstore for quite a while, and stumbled upon Remi Coignet Conversations A book about photography with no photos, just conversations. I was drawn to the book since JH Engstrom's name was on it. Here's a little snippit (if you're not tired of reading already):
RC: Some photographers keep their distance, while others get close to them... My feeling is that you are in this second category.
JHE: I'm very interested in this question. What does it mean to be close or distant? ... "It's easier to keep your distance." Observing from a distance is a way of keeping safe. As you move closer, you reveal yourself. But if you decide to get close to your subject, you reveal yourself as a photographer in the same way the people you shoot are being revealed. Maybe photography is asking the question: what does it mean to be present or absent? To be close or far? All of photography moves between proximity and distance, whether you are shooting images or viewing them.
A truly inspiring book so far. Not for beginners =).
Afterwards, we went to Single Cut Brewery, to meet up with more friends. It's a nice and spacious brewery, great for large parties. We played quite a few rounds of Jenga and Uno, then we went off to...
Momofuku Ko. I've only been to ssam and milk bar before, and remember ssam bar being not really the greatest experience. In all honesty, I don't see myself coming back to Ko for quite a while. I think in order to appreciate this sort of food, you do have to know how the chef is thinking, how he's approaching things. And that's a double edged sword, cause... why can't the food be self explanatory? What is "good food" when it's taken to a level of playfulness that needs explaining and pretense?
The drinks were pretty bad to be honest. The sommolier let me get a really shitty bottle of chardonnay that was extremely tart. Then the most basic of basic sake's. Fortunately the last one was unpasturised and funky.
As for the food, the most memorable course was bread followed by a scrambled egg, with caviar and crumbled fried potato(chips). "This is David Chang on a plate." I thought. But is it worth paying $300 per person for a clever representation or take on a common breakfast item? Maybe actually. Maybe it's cool that his dishes are so comforting yet have a slightly different spin. At the same time I appreciate what he's doing for food, seeing and reading about certain dishes might create a level of expectation that can't be fulfilled in real life.
"If I pay X amount, I expect you to inspire me."
With the night still not over, Laurence took Michelle and I to Decible a basement sake and snack bar in St. Marks place. What a cool fucking joint. 10/10 would hang out there again.
After that we joined Laurence's extended group of old roomates and NYU friends at Tropical.
It was a mad house, way too crowded, and the music wasn't great either. They had a couple pool tables in the back, where I just drank away the awkwardness.
A couple of us went out to Karaoke aftwards. It was a very drunk night, and I was angry that the place didn't have ANY of my songs.
Laurence woke me up around noon the next day, and we went to Ramen Ya. I thought it was a pretty decent bowl of ramen, but it was not at a level that I desperately searching for.
The girls wanted dessert, and recommended a place called Royce Chocolates near by. The store's interior reminded me of a high end... purse store, but after one bite I was hooked. I ended up buying 4 boxes, $18 per box, and my only regret was not buying more. This day was when it really hit me. New York really has a lot of amazing things to do. Each neighborhood has it's own unique character, and they're jam packed with quirky things that I really enjoy.
I met up with Jenny Fan for the interview afterwards. Michelle came by to meet up and I made her wait for a really long time, which I feel horrible for. Laurence and his roommates went to a Super Bowl party, and Michelle and I ordered Bonchon chicken and watched other things at their apartment.
On Monday morning, my 25th birthday, I couldn't get up. I refused to. The hours passed by, 1pm (10 on the West coast)... 2pm... I received constant messages on my phone wishing me happy birthday, but I just felt horrible. I finally got out of bed and decided I wasn't going to waste this trip, and headed out into the snow which was just starting to ramp up into high gear. As I was navigating to the subway station, I slipped and fell. It was kind of a huge wipe-out, but I got up and was fine...
I eventually made it to Hide-Chan, which is Ramen Totto's sister restaurant for tonkotsu pork ramen.
It was around 3pm on a Monday, it wasn't crowded, but there were still quite a few people there.
How was the bowl? One of the best I've ever had. Finally a place that cares about everything component of their ramen down to the temperature. I was revived after this and set off the office for the longest video conference meeting of my life.
The one stark difference between New York and SF is that there's just so many people out on the streets at all times in New York. I miss being in a crowd of people. I want to blend in, I want people and faces to be flying pass me, I want to take photos of people who are in their "zone" those who are lost in their every day life.
At night I had my birthday party at Kinfolk, which I'm not sure is related to the magazine at all. It was still snowing a bit outside, but quite a few people came out! I hadn't had dinner yet and the kitchen was closed, but they let us order pizza's to the bar.
Laurence got me a banana birthday cake from Momofuku Milk Bar. He's too good to me.
On my last day I grabbed lunch with Madeline at another cozy hole in the wall basement Japanese spot.
We walked back to her office in Chelsea. Even though the scenery wasn't very remarkable, I felt the need to try to take some photos.
Afterwards, with the small amount of time I had before my flight I went to meet up with Justin Ryan Kim, a guy who left Texas at a similar time as me and still has managed to survive in New York.
I don't really know how much he's "struggled" but I do commend him for doing something different and going with it. He's probably more of a "millenial" in the way that I described above than I am. A large cushion, impossible to fail, but making the most of it while he's going. But for real, the girl he was hanging with wouldn't stop touching exhibits during our rounds, and she seriously has to hold that. I was glad that, even though the Aperture Gallery was between exhibits, that their store was open. They're the most prodominent publisher of contemporary photography books. Look you can see JH Engstrom's book on the top left of the bottom right 6 books! SO COOL!
Arriving at the airport, I noticed this large burst of light coming from the opposite side of the terminal. I followed it... just feeling that the contrast would make for an interesting photo. After passing through security, I sat down at my gate and starting looking at photos, I highlighted a couple... nothing seemed too amazing or stand out.
Having a couple minutes to spare, I decided to get a drink, as I got to the bar, a girl arrived at the same time, and as we awkwardly put our luggage to our sides, me to my right, her to her left, we ended up sitting next to each other despite there being a lot of other seats. I got a Guiness, not really feeling in the mood for a Stella or something in a bottle even if they were better options. She ordered wine, having her choices only be between "white" and "red." Having a few seconds to think of a line, I ended up asking, "So are you on the flight to SFO?" She was, and we went on to talk about our trips to the East Coast. With 20 minutes gone by, and our flight about to board, we suddenly realized that our flight back was going to be 7 hours. "How about we get breakfast sandwiches?" she said, which sounded amazing. Turns out the Dunkin Donuts we saw earlier was just an express with just drinks and pastries. We hurried over to McDonalds, not really giving a shit about anything anymore we got 2 big macs. We showed each other our tickets for the plane ride, her seat was A7, mine was 13F, I gave her a cookie from Momofuku, and we parted ways.
I found the whole interaction so organic, so natural. Why do I find myself often being so closed off in these situations? Can't I just be this open all the time? What's worse, rejection, or not expressing any feelings at all?
All this being said. In the end I know I just have to trust my myself. To trust my taste and my current ability to navigate through this huge cloud of the unknown. I need to surround myself with the right people, try more things, and fail even more. Because now is when things are really starting. Maybe it's not about plan A or plan B. It's all on one course. There isn't any jumping from state to state. This is my life, my present, and that's where my head needs to be.