Archive for November, 2014

Memory is only what we choose to remember

Sunday, November 30th, 2014

So then, is time what is the function of memory? That time multiplied by personality is what makes a memory?

As of this moment, I believe that my fingers are tapping on the keyboard, giving my thoughts the graceful contemplation. I am sitting in a slouched position in my bed. Half of my body is underneath the covers. Three layers of covers. Outside, I hear the occasional car drive by swirling the water that has fallen from the sky. It is silent now, except for the movie score playing from my speakers. My throat is slightly dry, perhaps due to allergies or hoarseness.

But will I remember this moment? Beyond reading this entry years later? What I will remember will not be this moment, but the sum of all these moments writing these types of entries. I will remember how I love to think, to contemplate, to analyze, to philosophize. The memory of these moments before I close my eyes for the night will return the joy of turning an item over and over again, looking at it at different sides, tossing it up in the air wondering if it will land the same way.

I will remember that. But what I won’t remember is the memory of the time. The time that others will say that I wasted in doing this. It is not productive. How can you hack that time to make it useful?

But I will continue to lie back in my bed with poor posture, my fingers expressing themselves, dancing across the keyboard. Declaring that even if there was a choice, the memory of all of this was already destined because of who I am. I would always make this choice.

How might music define a story?

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

From time to time, I open Spotify and hit play. More often than not, the music comes from a TV or movie I have seen. But as time passes from when I first saw the story, the music stays. What I remember isn’t what happened to the characters or how the world changed. What I feel, rather than what I remember, is the only physical and mental sensation that I feel.

I often write to this music, letting the emotions that I created for myself with the music take me on journey. Perhaps the minor chord remind me of the vulnerability that I felt as a child standing on the playground? Or the way that the music swoops into a crescendo and the violins violently play, it reminds me of the imagined terror? Or simply as the lyrics wax fondly of a distant happiness, I remember the emotions of a memory so vividly that it felt like it happened just now.

When I first moved in, my neighbor downstairs would im me. “I hear that you’re playing Muse again,” he said, crushing heavily on the person that he thought I was.

Embarrassed and irritated, I would hit pause, and my speakers would be silent. “No more,” I said.

But then the following evening, I would forget and turn up my speakers again. He moved away later for graduate school. But I kept writing to the sounds of the music, finding the touch of the C notes, the shapely brass horns, and sultry singing voices to beckon me into imagination.

In the past 8 years, I have moved from movie scores to indie pop and back to movie scores. In hopes that they’ll tell me something that I don’t know.

I feel validated now that I have a vice

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

Every day approximately around 2 pm until dinnertime, I get this insane urges. A hankering of, sorts. I sit at my desk working, and my gaze floats upwards to my shelve. Instead of the books, notebooks, piles of papers, and speakers, I see snacks. Tasty snacks. Consisting of candy. Then I imagine it filling my tongue—the sour ones burning it, the fruity ones filling my mouth with a satisfying squishiness, the sugar that perks me up.

But it’s not there.

You see, I have a sugar tooth. And for the longest time, nobody would ever call it a vice.

When I was 22 at an internship, the director of the agency asked me in casual conversation, “Do you have any vices?”

“Sugar!” I said, thinking of how I spent money on candy, ice cream, and desserts.

He laughed and said, “That’s not a vice.”

I laughed too, matching his tone, but I hid my embarrassment by changing the topic. Afterwards, I wondered why I didn’t have any vices, desperate to be like everyone else. Drinking wasn’t my thing. Nor was smoking. I was too prudish to do much. I wanted to be as wicked. But instead, I slipped back into my perfect controlled role.

With the increasing awareness of the importance of health, almost anything we eat is a “vice”. The glutenful pasta. The bread. The lack of veggies. The dessert. During lunch at a writing event, a woman looked at her plate of food from the buffet and declared, “I wish that I didn’t get too much.”

The Asian woman next to me jumped in and asked, “Why do you think that you got too much?”

It was a good question. We think that we eat too much because society says that big portions are bad, too much meat is bad, too much sugar is bad, and too much of anything is bad. It’s not just “not good”, it’s “bad”. Like the big bad.

But instead, I jumped in, saying “Is it because you’re afraid of feeling bloated?”

We chatted more while I ate my very full plate with a touch of salad, turkey, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, beef, mashed potatoes, and crumbled boiled eggs.

I just don’t like being yelled at

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014

In the past year, I have seen an old man at the entrance of San Francisco Costco who checks for membership cards. His hair is all white and his stance is slightly tilted from years of working. As members walk in, he barks, “Your membership card? Let me see it! Do you have it? Your membership card, please!”

Members pull out their card, obeying their orders. Then they walk in, stuffing their cards back into their bags, to be forgotten until it’s requested to be seen at the register.

On my first encounter with the old man, it was amusing to be yelled at by a drill sergeant. Chris called him a “crotchety old man”, noting that “crotchety” is often only used for old white men. For me, I started feeling embittered on return visits. His behavior was so unlike the usual door greeters (or door enforcers). Now let me start that I love Costco. It is a big-box retailer, but I actually find the limited choices and quality to be appealing. It’s rare that I can get high-quality cheese at bulk prices. Not to mention discount gas.

We whispered to fellow staff members, “Who is the old guy at the door? The one who yells?”

“Him? Oh he’s always like that. He’s always angry.”

Chris isn’t bothered, but my stomach tightens each time we approach the door. It’s like walking through a door with knives. I know how to go around it, but it’s always unpleasant each time to be pricked. I start to wonder what if I went inside without showing the card. Like heading to the pharmacy as I should be allowed to do in the state of California.

Instead, later, as I am dealing with something at the membership desk, I notice the woman helping me has the title “front end supervisor” on her nametag. Chris urges me to mention something and points at the sign that says customer service is our priority. “I am uncomfortable,” I say, rehearsing out loud as the supervisor heads to the other side to grab paperwork. “With the way he yells at the door.”

Indeed, I stumble over my words, panicking that I am not making sense and that my concerns was going to be dismissed. I nearly dismiss myself to say that it doesn’t matter even if it did matter. But then she understands and tells us that they have tried with him, but he doesn’t seem to listen. And the supervisor was concerned as Chris added, “She doesn’t feel comfortable when yelled at.”

I hate it when I feel an invisible force shield

Friday, November 21st, 2014

My appointment was 2:30 PM. I was sure of it. I had checked the text messages twice to make sure before I even departed my apartment. I sprinted up Sansome Street, going full speed when the lights turned green and moving as efficient as possible to Montgomery Street. I reminded myself that I will have to take the time later to seriously consider if this location was worth it.

Outside the building, I pressed the # button to get to the directory. I punched in the number, unsure if I did it right and hoped that the “system is dialing” meant that something was happening. I tried to focus on the sound spilling out of the metal speaker, hoping that I could hear both the dial tone and the door unlocking at the same time in the midst of the street noise. Anxiety hurtle through my chest. Last time, did I announce myself? Didn’t she just let me in and I didn’t have to say a single word at all?

Her voice began speaking, and I was puzzled. I started saying my name, but I thought that it was silly. I was here for my appointment and really, who listens to their voicemail anyway? So I pressed the star button and hung up. I checked the directory and dialed the number again. It rang and rang. Suddenly behind me, a woman opened the door, leaving the building. “Oh!” I said and quickly hit the star button.

It was 2:31 PM already and I felt late. So I ran to the elevator, pounding the call button. It arrived slowly in 30 seconds and I climbed it, slamming the 4th floor. It felt like a snail moving through the building. Then the doors opened and I walked down the hallway that I had visited a few months earlier. Outside her door, I heard voices. So I patiently waited, checking my phone to make sure it was on silent. I sat down on the steps and wondered what to do.

But then it dawned on me after 10 minutes that my appointment time was incorrect. I checked my text messages again. She had said, “2:30 pm”. I thought to knock on the door, but I couldn’t do it. I was admonished by a nearby practitioner for thinking such things. So I paced up and down the hallway. I was here and could figure out the misschedule right now instead of resorting to an abnormal communication. But I felt the invisible force shield as my hand reached for the door.

If only I could not hear the voices, would I behave differently? Would I consider this whole space to be mine? I couldn’t do it. Instead, my fingers touched the door and absorbed the voices. I texted, “Am I supposed to be scheduled at 2:30 pm?”

I texted Chris to ask what I should do even though I already knew what I was comfortable doing. He texted back saying, “Knock softly.”

I raised my hand and just could not. I thought about all the times that I couldn’t do something that I thought that I should do. The time in college when I wanted to join a club and got to the door one minute late and was panicking in the worst way possible, never making it inside. The time that I was 20 minutes late to a blood donation center and completely flaked out on my appointment (only time in my life ever, I swear and they never contacted me again). But the funny thing is that I clearly remember pushing myself to go some places in despite being uncomfortable and late, and I don’t remember what they were.

So I stood outside the door for 30 minutes wondering what to do. I sent another text message, thinking that I had fulfilled my duty of acknowledging my presence. I lifted my arm and made a soft barely audible knock. One that I couldn’t even hear myself. In seconds, I received a text message confirming my hypothesis. So I took a deep breath and went down the elevator. Out back on Columbus Avenue, swinging down to Kearney stopping to get an expensive Sea Salt Creme Oolong Tea with Milk Pudding in the Financial District. The rain poured then, dripping all over me since I opted not to bring an umbrella. I looked down the sidewalk, letting my hood shield my head and breathed in the air.

What is the point of existence if the past is forgotten?

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

Yesterday morning, I walked around my block and documented it for the local blog for the Mission neighborhood.

I came up with the title, “Leave your mark”, within the first few minutes when I stepped outside.

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It started like this: Just steps from my apartment where I have lived since 2006, I discovered the tiled entryway “Dog Eared Books” in shades of green. You see, I knew that Dog Eared Books had never been there ever since I moved in. I had always known it as the “witch” and “herbal” store, which recently moved several doors down to be replaced by an artsy zine store. In fact, Dog Eared Books had been several blocks away. It is the bookstore whose bargain bin always caught my eye, the location where I found something for a SF “scavenger” hunt experience, the place where I could find literary magazines and zines and other various things.

But what struck me was how the former businesses here left their mark whether it was their historical and/or artistic signs. How people left food outside. How artists left their marks on the sidewalks in Koi fish or fried eggs. How the city’s sirens ring every Tuesday at noon singing “This is a test.”

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What would be my mark? I moved here in 2006, not knowing that I would be still living here in 2014. I think that I believed then that I would be a transient, making a momentary stop as I figured out my life. But as I look around the neighborhood to the businesses that used to be here, I wonder if I would disappear? Just like all the people I never quite knew who lived right next door, quietly watching in the window, wishing that the neighbors wouldn’t block the driveway. Again.

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Fancy pants mean that they ride low, literally.

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

Suddenly, a cyclist yelled something at me as she rode past me as I cruised down Market Street. Her hair was short, and she wore one of those city helmets. Now, when I am on my bike, I get yelled at a lot. By cars for taking up the lane. By other cyclists for being too slow. By pedestrians who think that the light was green.

But a moment after she started singing (because I realized that it wasn’t yelling, it was singing), I realized what she said.

As she rode past me and swung into my lane, “Your pants are so low and I can see your ass-crack.”

Stunned, my first instinct was amusement. But the next one came almost immediately. Anger. How dare she comment on something that couldn’t be helped. I was in my aggressive cycling mood—almost required when riding downtown, but then my cautious cycling mood popped in the moment the light turned red. She zipped two blocks ahead then further as I waited for the numbers to countdown to zero. I quickly pulled up the expensive pair of jeans, the skinny leg ones that were over $100 and as I rode down Market Street onto Valencia Street, I stopped leaning forward and sat straight up so nobody would see. Like the way I liked it. Because I don’t ever want to be like Kim Kardashian (NSFW).

Darkness descends

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

And the brightness retreats, taking all clarity.
Here is where the storm boils and spills.
Here is where the shouts come out of exhaustion.
Here is where we let darkness consumes us.

In high school and college, I learned to love the night unlike the nights I used to spend terrified of monsters, demanding night lights. This is where my parents and my sister disappeared into their bedrooms and dreams suspended them, leaving me alone in my room with my books and the family computer. I let the ideas fly from the printed word into my head, unfolding and folding upon itself until it became an inspiration for an idea. I let words unfurl from my fingers onto the keyboard, filtering as 1s and 0s.

But as exhaustion overtakes me and my eyelids feel heavy, I rest my head in my pillow and my arms fall slack. For a second, everything is calm, but without electric light, I bolt up and wonder if there are monsters lurking outside of my sight. I rush to turn on the night light to create my own burst of clarity.

Hangry?

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

I dislike ridiculous slang and avoid it as much as possible. It’s those young’uns that keep using it after all!

But then recently, a young ‘un used hangry in front of me. As we walked around the NASA base a few weeks ago during a public opening, I was nearly dying. Without eating breakfast, I was subsisting on air fumes, the smaller dinner from the previous night. Every step I took to move from building in the multiple acre campus (imagine this: shuttles, big satellites, wind tunnels need to fit all here; imagine the space required). Within two hours of walking, my friend admitted that she was hangry. “I think that I am too!” I chirped, my stomach rumbling and my feet hurting.

But I couldn’t understand the word. Because I have always hated words like totes, natch, cray cray. Just say what you mean! But then I finally understood hangry.

When you find me at my worst, it’s when I have been starved beyond recognition (in my mind). Where I want to collapse in a heap. All because I follow my usual habits of not eating in the morning. My eyes are likely falling out, because I didn’t sleep well or that the alarm woke me up before my preferred natural waking up time.

“Where is the effffing food?” I want to demand and strangle anybody in the way. Instead that day on the NASA base, I just started charmingly singing, “Foodie!” every ten feet. As if I was calling a dog to come back to my side. “Foodie! Foodie! Foodie!!!!! Come fill my belly!”

The story of the mistaken identity

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

From a distance, I saw a young Asian female. She shuffled slowly toward the genius bar at the Stonestown Apple Store. Standing near the kids area that played animated games over and over again, I wanted to lunge her and declare, “JEN NG!”

Instead, I maintained my composure and moved my weight to foot to foot, craning to hear her soft voice speak to the check-in guy. “My iPhone is broken,” she said.

Doubt spread among my ears. It wasn’t Jen Ng, someone who had signed up for the 3:10 pm appointment and used my email address. A few days earlier, I was in a rage. How could someone use my email address again? To not only verify an apple id, but more importantly, to sign up for an Apple appointment. The rage rippled through my head muscles down to my shoulder muscles. In my mind, I imagined running up to her, grabbing her by the shoulders, and demanding that she stop using my email address for everything on the Internet, so help me God.

In all clarity, I knew that it was a minor mistake. This one probably would have been corrected easily. But it’s all the frustration I have been feeling as gmail has become prolific and everyone has been using it. At first, I thought that it was hilarious when I received an email about bank statements from Toronto. Then it was just amusing when a travel agent sent me airplane tickets in my name and some husband’s name for a destination cruise. Then it was almost sentimental when I received heartwarming emails from women in Hong Kong for a newly born infant diagnosed with Down syndrome.

Until it wasn’t of course. The annoyance happened when I was accidentally included in a mass email list for a tutoring group in Canada. At first, I politely requested that I was removed. But then I was not. I received reminders, doodle invitations, and new assignments. Anger flared and I sent very directed angry messages to be removed. Then I received dinner invitations and bachleorette invitations. At first, I again asked to be removed. Then in my following messages, I gave snarky reply about how I wish that I was invited, but sadly my name is the only thing that really matters. Whose fault was it really? I wish that I knew, because I wish that I could blame the person with my same name. But how can I blame the non-Jenn? How can I blame the people who have too misspelled my own name?

My war continued. In the Apple store, I stood stupidly right there near the guys with the check-in tablets. Waiting for someone to show up. But then I realized: if she scheduled the appointment with my email address, then this means that she never received a reminder or confirmation email. How would she have remembered to come? I argued with a genius about how I could contact this mysterious Jen Ng who was a no-show. “Just email her,” he said.

I scoffed, because I didn’t follow his logic. “But how can I email her if I don’t her email address?” I said. “Because she used my email address and as you know, I would be sending an email to myself. Do you understand what’s going on?”

The rage tipped over, and my blood pressure must have been going higher than its usual low calm level. I was impressed with the guy’s calm as he smiled. “Just schedule an appointment,” he said. “Let’s take a look for what we have.”