Day 78: The Man and the Wardrobe; ‘Stylish’

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Someone is going to make fun of me for referencing another older post, but it seems to be a running trend with the prompt nowadays. The post in question is this one, in which I discussed the important of humor not only in my dating life but in my socialization and in how I view the connected experiences of humanity. I know, heavy stuff Doc.

Today’s prompt was ‘stylish’, which brought up thoughts of another aspect of my personality that I practically personally tailored (bad puns) to fit my dating life once more. I didn’t just use cheesy humor to get a girl’s attention. In the immortal words of ZZ Top, ‘every girl crazy ‘bout a sharp dressed man’. I learned the myriad benefits of realizing that a guy’s outfit could be more than jeans and a t-shirt.

When I was in the first grade I had to wear this shiny gold vest for Easter Sunday. I thought I looked so cool with it on and everyone was saying how handsome I looked. There was a girl in my class who I had a huge crush on. Her father owned the local bakery and I used to go with my parents when they wanted to pick up some bread and biscotti. She was usuallyFrontShot hanging out at the store on weekends, coloring or running outside. I was always too shy to approach her or let alone talk to her. But if I could show her my cool new vest…well she’d have to…uh…I don’t know…my first grade self didn’t know what you were supposed to do with a girl you had a crush on. Maybe she’ll hold my hand. Hahah.

On Monday morning I stuffed that gold vest into my backpack so my mother wouldn’t know I had it with me. As soon as she dropped me off at school I asked my teacher if I could use the restroom. Inside, I slipped on this very shiny very sparkly golden vest over my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles shirt. I was a 6 year old little boy in Power Rangers sneakers, blue jeans, a TMNT shirt, and a gold Easter vest. I thought I was the bomb. As I strutted my walk back into class with that runway look I very quickly realized otherwise. My guy friends were confused and dumbfounded. They stared and poked at the vest and wondered why I was wearing it. I could hear the girls in class looking and giggling at me. (See, making them laugh since day one.)

My teacher came over to me and in her teacherly way simply said, ‘Why Man, that’s a very nice vest. Why are you wearing that to school today?’

‘I don’t know,’ I wanted to say. ‘Love makes you do stupid things?!’

‘I…I have a party to go to after school,’ I lied.

Obviously, or well maybe not obviously but hopefully, my fashion sense, much like my comedic timing, has improved over the years. It was, after all, something I actually wanted to study and know more about and get better at.

I went through phases, just like anyone else growing up. Later on in elementary school I
got into the skater look. Long sleeve shirt with a short sleeve on high-school-metop. I got so lazy I just started buying shirts that just looked like it was two layers. In middle school I was very into the Asian motif so a lot of dragons and flames and ninja designs. It was bad. In high school I would change almost weekly. One week I’d try out the Seattle grunge look. Ripped jeans, plaid lumberjack shirts. Another time I’d be uncomfortably, unnaturally preppy. Polo shirts with the collar popped and a stupid jacket tied around my shoulders. I’d wear the jerseys of teams I didn’t follow whose players I didn’t recognize. I am so eternally grateful that my mother put a very quick and definite end to any possibility of me getting some obnoxiously long black trenchcoat like I saw in The Matrix because my dumb impressionable self was convinced this was the coolest jacket in the world. I would have even walked around with my arms folded behind me like Morpheus. I was most comfortable in jeans and a button up with the sleeves rolled. That’s what carried over mainly into college. College was also where I started to really want to dress smartly, dress like a guy who knew what the hell he was doing. Threw out all the skulls and dragons. Threw out the skater shirts. (Donated to Salvation Army, don’t worry.)

I started buying jeans that I realized didn’t always have to come in bright blue. Khakis. Chinos. Short-sleeve polo shirts, long-sleeve button ups, three-button henleys. I loved my assorted blazers and suit jackets. I learned to dress for the season and dress with variety. And you know what, girls did notice throughout all the years. If you show up over-dressed, like say a gold vest to homeroom, you’ll stick out for all the wrong reasons. But if you just do enough to be the best dressed guy in the room, you stick out for the right ones.

Say what you will about anything else, but I can at least say for certain that the women I’ve dated were sure of two things. 1) I was funny. And 2) I dressed well. Who wouldn’t take a little extra time to notice and appreciate when a guy shows up at your door and it looks like he spent more than five minutes deciding what to wear.

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There are so many benefits to a well-stocked and versatile wardrobe. Functionality is of course still the most important thing. I would never support a fashion choice simply for its aesthetic versus practical use. A good wardrobe and a good sense of how to use it means you’ll never be caught unprepared. You’ll have the right clothes for each season and every weather type. You’ll be able to dress well for any occasion, from the most casual to the most formal. You can sell with much more confidence any image you wish to portray. A good outfit can also help a man hide some flaws and accentuate some strengths. I have particularly broad shoulders, so I like to wear clothes that accentuate that. This may sound weird but I am also a big fan of my forearms, which is why I very rarely wear sleeves to the wrist. I usually roll sleeves on my button ups or pull them up on sweaters and the like. Since I am tall,especially for a Filipino, I am very particular about my pant length. Too short, like how a lot of Asian men (especially Korean) like to wear it, makes me look awkward and gangly. Too long means the pant bunches up and makes me look saggy. But a pant with just the right length that ends at my shoe makes me seem like just a tad bit more of a commanding presence. You’d think with my little extra paunch I’d want to wear oversized shirts or baggy items to hide that, but I know it just makes me look frumpy and wrinkled. So a goodfitting shirt is actually better because it can help to narrow my profile a bit by aligning closer to my pants.

As the fall season approaches in the East coast I look forward to my cold-weather wardrobe coming back into circulation. I tend to sweat easily so I don’t get too fancy in the warmer months in terms of clothing. Material is more important and I am particular though to make sure I wear things that are almost always 100% cotton. In the winter though I get to dress my smartest. Layers are my friend. Collared shirt, vest, blazer. Plain tee, sweater, scarf. Cardigans. Long manly winter coats. No marshmallow jackets here.

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Honestly, I don’t know when or why or how not caring about your clothes became synonymous with ‘manliness’. I feel sad that so many guys think the best way to show off masculinity is to try really really hard to dress like a homeless person. When did knowing about the benefits of different kinds of materials and shirt styles lose its prowess in the circle of men. Why is it nowadays it’s either basketball shorts and t-shirts or fedoras and trenchcoats.

A man dressing well is manly. It speaks so much to a person’s knowledge, skills, and talents. It’s an unmistakable first impression. We don’t even need to know too much or have too much in our wardrobe. It’s not difficult for a guy to master the basics of smart dress for men. Even though I’m not actively going out and trying to find someone and telling myself I’ll find the love of my life at this particular moment I still like the fact that I learned the skill and ability to dress well enough so that no matter who looks, hopefully, if they appreciate something like that, they could still say ‘there goes a stylish man’.

Day 78

Man: 60 Loneliness: 18

Day 77: The Man and the Enemy Revisited; ‘Silence’

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Back on Day 8 I wrote ‘The Man and the Silence’ which you can read here if you’d like. Beautiful had left me only a week ago and I was still getting accustomed to my new job. My sleep pattern was shot to hell and I was keeping myself up with the background hum of my hotel television because I couldn’t handle the permanent ringing silence that had characterized my nights.

When this all started, I thought the definitions were set. I was a lonely, heartbroken victim trying to pick up the pieces, Beautiful was the hungry consumer who took everything I had given her to figure out her feelings for someone else, and on that day, Silence was the enemy to be conquered.

I likened Silence to Loneliness and believed that the presence of one would surely shortly The Silence.jpgbe followed by the presence of the other. I feared and hated the Silence because it only reminded me of the void I had in my life. My stories were caught in my throat with no one to share with and there were no soft, gentle voices to accompany me to sleep.

I realize now that I was mistaken to consider silence and loneliness as equivalent. After all, how many times have we felt alone amidst noise and chaos and how many times have we spent quiet, contemplative nights with the people we love? It is the loneliness we feel when surrounded by the noise of so many people that strikes us with the harshest clarity and it is the ability and comfort and ease of spending moments in silence that characterize the strongest of our relationships with others.

To conquer my enemy, I must know my enemy. Silence is not the enemy. It can most definitely be a symptom of loss, but it is not the ally of it.

Since that original post I have been sleeping better (as much as a night-owl can) and sleeping in silent peaceful contented solitude. I have been able to bring back and appreciate a facet of life that I used to always be comfortable with.

So what changed? Why this transformation and how?

Over the course of my writing I have begun to create a much clearer image of who the enemy really is and what it is I am actually fighting against. It was never silence. I was so caught up in defining myself by my relationships that to me, I thought anything that was not a part of that was the enemy. Beautiful was the enemy for ending our relationship. Loneliness was the enemy for creating the vacuum next to me. Silence was the enemy because it meant no one to listen to or talk to.

Loneliness is still the enemy. Nature abhors a vacuum. Beautiful, I wrestle with from day to day. But I can guarantee you that Silence is never the enemy. It gets a bad rap because Silence is an ally we all need but never want. It is the only one that speaks the truth.

When we are left in silence we are stripped of the distractions and pretty things that keep us occupied. It forces us to face the things we hum away in our mind with catchy songs and jingles. I hated Silence back then because it was only in its presence that I began to really reflect on the relationship and start to pick apart the good from the bad and learn to survive and grow on the scraps. The silence rattled me because I could not keep playing my victim song over and over. It offended me because it tried to understand Beautiful’s own journey and my place in it. It reduced me to tears because it couldn’t answer the questions I kept yelling inside.

Why not her.

Why not us.

Why am I alone.

Will I ever find someone.

Can I do this on my own.

But, it was also in the company of Silence that I began to acquire the wisdom to answer for myself. And the humility to let go of the questions that were not mine to contemplate. I stopped trying to control and justify the actions of others. It was in silence that I stopped obsessing over Beautiful’s actions and began to only hold myself accountable for my own.

It is always in silence that I find the best words. It is in silence that I find the best company. I used to fear that having no one to share with meant silence. Now I hope to find someone to share silence with.

Silence can sometimes be a grim accompaniment but is always a necessary companion. I do think for the same reasons I’ve said that too many people fear the Silence.

Perhaps it is possible to live a happy, blissful life never confronting or being comfortable with Silence. Perhaps, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Not for the curious and insightful soul. Not for the true consumers and devourers of life. If you are hungry, be quiet. Silence accompanies all the great emotions that are responsible for great writing. You are so happy you find yourself speechless. Grief overcomes you with such immensity that your sobs stay in your throat. Fear grips and steals your breath away. Love overwhelms in a way that cannot be expressed. Beauty freezes every part of you.

I am now okay with sitting next to Silence. It is my friend once more. I know to seek it in the largest moments of my life as that one brief moment when I am not distracted by little things. Silence is the sharp intake of breath when you take everything in for the very first time. It is your purest reaction.

Know your enemy. Conquer your enemy. Silence is not your enemy.

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Day 77

Man: 59 Loneliness: 18

Day 76 Supplemental: The Man and the Forest for the Trees; ‘Hike’

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What’s more important.

The journey or the destination?

I was on one of Beautiful’s hikes when I asked her this. Partly because I wanted to know if she was happier to be with me or to end up with me. Partly because I loved hearing her voice. Partly because I needed her to stop so I could catch my breath for the first time.

‘The journey.’

She told me about how much hiking had helped her in life. How the self-direction helped her take some control; she could dictate how far to go and when to stop and where. She
would often get so lost in appreciating interesting plants and tall trees that her hiking companions would leave her behind and have to wait for her further up ahead. She took her time with slow, deliberate steps, always appreciating the forest for the trees. Her friends wanted to get to their marker and settle as quickly as possible.

If you would have asked me then, which was more important the journey or the Sunlight Trees.gifdestination, I would have said the destination. I am a guided ballistic missile. When I decide I want something, I go forward at full throttle. I’ve bulldozed my way through many decisions. I only applied to one college. I only focused on one career. I spent four years missing only one girl. I crashed through the forest and when I got back to Beautiful, I stopped. I wonder if I’d have learned more, learned to avoid the pitfalls, or learned to recognize the warning signs if I had slowed down just a bit.

I can’t tell you which is better. I can’t tell you whose life is full of more promise. I can tell you there’s a danger in putting one step in front of the other and not knowing where to go and that there is equal danger in forcing your way through your objectives and missing everything along the way.

There is a very heavy part of me that has come to realize I was just a pretty stone along her path. When she looked at me she wasn’t looking for a destination. I was a fascinating momentary distraction to a beautiful wanderer. It is not for me to say what she’s hoping to find at the end of her path, but I know it’s not me. And I’m okay with that, mind you.

Because I realize, she is not my objective. She was another obstacle that I needed to crash into and through. I just got hit a lot harder than I thought I would. It’s like running and hitting a wall. Your vision gets blurry. You lose your orientation. You spin around a bit and forget where you came from and where you’re going.

The silhouette of my destination is slowly but surely becoming sharper and more visible. I am beginning to get my bearings once more. But as I grip around in the fuzzy blur, I’m beginning to appreciate the feel of the ground beneath my feet. I grip onto the moss on the tree and feel its soft grittiness in my hands. As I slowly regain my balance I can smell the pine needles and my ears pick up the stream that runs through the forest. If I hadn’t stumbled, I wouldn’t be writing to you today.

We can only hope that when the opportunity comes to learn something from our struggles that we are humble and wise and open enough to accept the lesson.

I am not prepared to say that I prefer the journey over the destination. But I’ve learned the value in both. I have the knowledge to navigate my way through the forest to get to my goal and I am confident enough in that knowledge to put down the map, to stop worrying about my pace, to trust my direction, and afford myself the little bit of extra time to stop and see the forest for the trees.

Whether you think it’s the journey or the destination is up to you. They promise different rewards and assign different obstacles. Maybe you’ll need someone who is your opposite to keep you on track or maybe you need a similar soul to appreciate at the same pace as you everything the forest has to offer. The most important thing is to simply have the courage to take a hike.

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Day 76: The Man and the Continued Act of Gratitude

In continued recognition of how incredible the WP community is, I’d like to recognize two awards given to me by two awesomely talented bloggers. It’s been an incredible honor to be nominated for the Sunshine Blogger and Versatile Bloggger awards in the past and now I am pleased to acknowledge a second Sunshine Blogger Award nomination from SHAYM and the Blogger Recognition Award from Cosmic Explorer.

Most of the blogs and bloggers I would like to nominate have already been so by either myself or others.

My initial response and nominations for the Sunshine Blogger Award can be found here. My nominees were: WanderlustBreath MathKnowMyHeartInsidious Temptation, and kStan(ly) kSays. If you have not yet had an opportunity to explore their blogs, I would highly recommend taking the time to.

As such, I still would like to honor the nominations by answering the questions.


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The Rules for The Blogger Recognition Award

For all the nominees for this award, here are the rules, if you choose to accept (Please do):

  1. Write a post to show your award.
  2. Give a brief story of how your blog started.
  3. Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers.
  4. Thank whoever nominated you, and provide a link to their blog.

How my Blog Started

By now this story is very familiar. But, inspired by a comment from a reader, I’d like to discuss my hopes for where this blog could go. I haven’t forgotten my roots and the reason why this all started. I am still constantly battling, just getting better at fighting and recognizing my enemy. But as I’ve continued to write and evolve, I’ve started discussing movies, shows, food, music, it’s awoken this dormant desire to write and share that I didn’t think I had the skill nor the energy for. And blogging is not easy! I am surprised how much I enjoy it, how much time I freely give to it. You all know how this blog started. But even I don’t know where it will end. Maybe there’s a whole story to be written about my experience with Beautiful. Maybe I’ll want to be recognized for more than heartbreak. All I know is now I am beginning to realize that as I write, I’m also in the back of my mind writing to maybe discover a new path, a new future.

Advice to New Bloggers

  1. WRITE! Write when you don’t want to write. Write what you’re afraid to say. Write what’s too painful, too stupid, too hard to write. This is like any other muscle or any other skill. It needs constant stimulation. Write when there’s nothing left to write about the feeling of not knowing what to write. Your job isn’t to evaluate your writing. It’s not to judge before the fact. Your job is to write. Let it out and then see what happens. Then adjust. Then revise. But you can’t fix what isn’t broken. So break yourself writing.
  2. BECOME INVOLVED. I thought the self-contained microcosm of Man would be enough for me to fight Loneliness. But I craved and needed feedback and acknowledgement and growth, which can only come from an equal audience. This is an incredible community of writers and creators. Take advantage of that. Become involved. Share and spread love. Read other blogs. Consume. Then, share. Comment. Discuss. Converse. Your blog cannot exist on its own. It needs others. Rivers flow both ways.

Gratitude

Thank you again to Cosmic Explorer for this nomination. Your blog has been such a fun and positive reminder of the power of gratitude and curiosity. I also weirdly, geekily, and obsessively love all the blog post pics. I can’t outrun my anime nerd past. Hahah.


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Another Sunshine Blogger Award nomination! This time from SHAYMÂ. You know, I’ll be disqualified for this if Loneliness gets too many wins. Hahah.

The Rules:

  1. Thank the person that nominated you.
  2. Answer the questions from your nominator.

The Questions

1. What’s your favourite quote and why?

First off, love that this used the European spelling for ‘favorite’. I’d use it but…I’m a Joy-sey boy. They’ll spot me lying and faking. Hahah. I have a lot of favorite quotes.

When it comes to cooking: ‘a recipe is just an expression of a moment of time’. Cook to your feelings and passions. Recipes were made to be changed.

My favorite toast, ‘May those who love us, love us. And those that don’t love us, may God turn their hearts. And if He doesn’t turn their hearts, may He turn their ankles, so we may know them by their limping.’

On dealing with rainy days, ‘There is something to be learned from a rainstorm. When meeting with a sudden shower, you try not to get wet and run quickly along the road. But doing such things as passing under the eaves of houses, you still get wet. When you are resolved from the beginning, you will not be perplexed, though you will still get the same soaking. This understanding extends to everything.’

2. Do you read books? What kind of books and why?

Books a plenty! I like to read memoirs by people I admire to learn how to live a life to similar ends. I believe literature is a good way of supplementing knowledge we don’t yet have. That’s why when I was younger I wanted to read about noble heroes and love and things I didn’t have but wanted. Now I read Kazuo Ishiguro who teaches about loss and disappointment. I read Christopher Moore for realistic love.

3. Who’s your favourite author.

Kazuo Ishiguro, Anthony Bourdain, Christopher Moore, Nick Hornby.

4. Books or Movies, which is your preference? Why?

Original medium! I don’t like movie versions of books and I definitely don’t like book versions of movies. Yes, that happens. I think the original creators had a very specific vision in mind. Movies capture great plot and action. Things that move quickly and need grand stages. Books let us get into the minds of characters. It’s about human interaction and emotion. Motivation. An inner monologue we get to listen to that an actor can’t express on screen. I find books give me the best and most memorable characters. But I get more easily lost in movies, immersed in environments, plot, and action. I’ve also cried for movies, but never through books.

5. What was the toughest decision you’ve ever had to make.

My career choice. The day I decided to walk away from teaching, I felt like I lost a significant part of my identity. Being a travel agent certainly didn’t fill that void. It was an act of desperation. This new job is a bit better, but it still doesn’t feel authentic. It’s the only part of me that I don’t feel actually follows who I am. I’ve yet to make a decision on career choice that I really believe in.

6. What does your blog mean to you?

It is my salvation. My refuge. I pour everything into this. Every thought, worry, fear, belief, hope. It is routine and discipline when I feel chaotic or uncontrolled. My constant. It’s also my stage and my soapbox. And, ironically considering you all don’t actually know who I am, it’s my identity. Hahah. I like being Man. I thought I was ManVsLoneliness, but I’m beginning to extract the loneliness from me, realizing it is not a characteristic but a symptom. And now that I am beginning to identify my enemy, I can face it better.

7. Who’s your favourite person and why?

Uhm…I don’t…really…know…That’s a strange question. I like…the Doctor though? Does that count. Tenth one. Eleventh one can suck it. Twelve is cool too. Jackie Chan is a martial arts hero for me. Stephen Chow is a genius. Daniel Craig could kill three men with his bare hands but he looks at me with those schoolboy baby blue eyes and I’d run away with him. Is that weird?

8. Is there anything like “best friends”? what is your own idea of one. 

Mos def. Best friends are family you make. You need to form an actual bond. Choose to be close. Choose to trust each other. Every single day, you continually choose to have this friend in your life. And specifically for me, I think of best friends as people who can turn to you for advice and who you can turn to as well. And, this is very important, friends don’t stroke your ego. They need to be the ones who keep you grounded. Friends who find you perfect are dangerous. So you know, punch each other to the ground every once in a while.

9. Do you think that sometimes sacrifices aren’t really sacrifices. Why?

YES! And I cite EVERY Disney movie EVER. Tangled? When Finn gets stabbed but is MIRACULOUSLY saved by Rapunzel’s tears? WHAT IS THAT?! I want a doctor to come in and be like, ‘Actually ma’am the knife missed literally every vital organ. This wasn’t your love. It was bad aim. He was, after all, stabbed by a 100 year old witch. Probably couldn’t see very well.’ Most sacrifices in Hollywood and literature nowadays are too afraid to be actual sacrifices. Sacrifice is final, ultimate, absolute. For a sacrifice to really be considered a sacrifice, there has to be zero chance of salvation. There are way too many examples of sacrifices just being ‘noble’ or ‘honorable’ but they’re also painful and very sad.

10. Describe my blog. 

Fascinatingly diverse. It’s like someone spilled excellent examples of various writing styles and genres all over your blog. Personal, reflective, humorous, inspiring, poetry, prose, it’s all there. Honesty in execution. Just keep writing because you have not yet exhausted all your talents and I am eager to read more.


Day 76

Man: 58 Loneliness: 18

Day 75 Supplemental: The Man and the Careful Diction of Gratitude; ‘Passionate’

Lest I incur the pernicious disparagement of the prolific poster Phil, I will be extra careful in how I use today’s prompt to discuss something very important to me:

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I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to this community for helping me hit not one but TWO major milestones in the same day.

100 Follows.pngBefore I started this blog I had a concrete idea of what I wanted to do. Write though the pain, tell some stories, investigate, and reflect. Rinse and repeat. What I didn’t know was if I’d ever have anyone who wanted to listen. I told myself I was content enough to simply write and that I wasn’t doing it for the audience or for the attention. But if I’m honest with you, as I have been, the truth is I think all creative people want an audience. I thought if after a year I had 100 people who were listening I’d be amazed. The fact that I hit that number on just 75 days in is…flabbergasting. I am so honored and so grateful for every single person who has said to me ‘your story is worth reading and I want to read it’. Every notification of a new follower still brings up emotions of excitement and gratitude. Not going to lie, now that it’s started, I want it to keep going. I’m giddy. I want to see us grow even larger! I guess I better start writing things more worth it huh? Hahah.

Shout out to J. Cosby for being Subscriber Number 1 and to Cathy for being Subscriber Number 100!

The follows were always a big 1000 Likes.pngsurprise. So were the likes. I’m glad people enjoy my writing. The likes to me carry significance because each one tells me that I’ve made a connection. Something I’ve said has resonated with another human being who may be on the other side of the world. That connection is one of the reasons why I write. I’ve missed that, not being in a relationship. I’m so used to thinking that tragically naive and romantic idea that ‘oh, woe is me, there is only one who can understand a soul like mine’. Hahah. I’ve come to realize that so many of us are experiencing life in much the same way as others have. There is a kinship of shared experiences and there is an affirmation when you see that others have seen what you see, thought what you’re thinking, been where you are. I am comforted when people tell me they feel similarly and excited when they say I’ve shown them something new.

Shout out to Insidious Temptation for the 1000th like!

I can’t say why people follow my writing. I can’t say why people like it. I am inspired and motivated by the encouragement, but I can say that I’ve never let it control who I am or what I write. I always start with the understanding to write from the heart. It got me this far. I won’t change to chase more; if anything, as encouraging as it has been, I feel brave enough to go even deeper and be even more honest. I may not write with a passion. At times the words struggle to come up. Other times it bubbles to the surface like a well about to burst. But I always write on the things I am passionate about.

I am tremendously appreciative of everything and everyone along this journey. Today was a pretty great day. I’ll keep writing about the things I love and I’ll always be grateful every time it resonates with even just one person. I know the things I wake up for and the things that keep me up at night and I’ll keep sharing. Victory or defeat. But always with heart. Always with enthusiasm. Always with passion.

 

Day 75: The Man and the First Flight

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The first time I saw a Cirque Du Soleil production was in 2010. It was at Randall’s Island Park in New York. I saw Ovo, which was one of their touring shows, under a big circus tent in summer and I was in awe. No people flying out of cannons. No motorcycles. No lions, tigers, or elephants. Just a marvel of acrobatics and human strength, skill, grace, and flexibility. Since then I’ve been a huge fan catching most of their permanent residency shows in Las Vegas. Mystere at Treasure Island. Zarkana at the Aria. Ka at MGM Grand. O at the Bellagio. Didn’t get to see it in person but I also have La Nouba and Alegria on DVD. Alegria still gives me shivers.

I was surprised to find out that the Cirque team had paired up with the team behind James Cameron’s Avatar to create Toruk: The First Flight. But even more surprised that a) it would be touring at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ for only two days and b) that absolutely no advertising was done for it. In fact if it weren’t for my other friend who’s actually even more into Cirque than I am, I wouldn’t have caught the show with her and her family.

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But I’m glad I did.

Toruk takes place before the events of the first Avatar film, and it tells the story of the very first Toruk makto, a Na’vi who is strong enough and pure enough to ride the great toruk, the largest and most powerful predator in the skies of Pandora. It is a time of great danger to the Na’vi, the Omaticaya clan’s shaman foresees a great fiery disaster falling on the sacred Tree of Souls. Their chief sends his two sons, one by birth and one adopted, on a quest to retrieve five talismans from five Na’vi clans that will aid them in their quest to find the toruk and save the Tree of Souls, their connection to Eywa. During their journey they, and we, will encounter some of the animals and landscapes that captured our imaginations in the movie and witness some incredible feats by the people of many tribes.


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Toruk’s Pandora is just as awe-inspiring as Avatar‘s. Using a very minimal set design paired with some high-level CGI and camera mapping the designers of the show transport us to Pandora in a very real and immediate sense. I watched the Omaticaya dance and celebrate with drums and singing at the initiation of two young men into adulthood. On the very same stage not ten minutes later they turned the ground into a flowing roaring river with turtles and a canoe. They can make lava pour from the ground and they can create earthquakes so realistic you grip your chair. As the set pieces move the images projected onto them flow and change with it so you never lose that immersion. The set and costume design were absolutely terrific. I am impressed by how far we’ve come with mapping technology and so excited to see its future use in more productions. It is a bit bittersweet for me though as, while I do not take anything for granted in the skills of the programmers and designers, I hope I don’t lose the physical artistry and craftsmanship of the old-school sets. The costumes were bright and colorful (blue, mainly) and their tails seemed alive and springy, not just limp fabric or stiff tubing.


Even more impressive than the set and costume design, for me anyways, was the puppetry work that brought the wild animals and majestic beats of Pandora to life. The first ones we saw were the direwolves running in a pack chasing our protagonists. Each direwolf was controlled by one person. They ran together in unison like a real pack. They circled our heroes with that predatory sense of ferocity. When they ran the puppeteers were able to recreate the wave like motions of the direwolves’ bodies. You could almost see the ripple of muscle and sinew controlling their powerful legs as they raced across the stage. I also loved how adorable the turtles were in the river scene. Absolutely adorable. Flippers moving back and forth. Sliding across the stage floor with ease. But the toruk itself…the legendary ‘last shadow’…it was a behemoth of wonder that took five people to control. This is the show’s centerpiece. The journey and the reward. If the toruk didn’t invoke power, grandeur, strength, fear, and nobility then it just wouldn’t be the same. When the toruk puppet first appears it takes your breath away. Large powerful wings flapping. Fierce jaws snapping. We are witnessing the king of the sky in person. I was half-focused on the size and scale of the creature, in admiration of the design and colors, and half-focused on the team of highly skilled puppeteers orchestrating each movement and pulling the puppet along.

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The music, as always, is one of the show’s greatest strengths. Powerful deep drum pieces. Lots of woodwind instruments to create the illusion of lightness, swiftness, and flight. I don’t speak Na’vi. And I don’t really plan on ever learning it. So I have zero clue what the hell anyone was saying or singing the entire time. But it was still just so good. I don’t care, I’ll hum or make guttural noises to sing along. The soundtrack is on Spotify and most probably YouTube so I highly recommend checking it out. The acts are…appropriate. This is more of a story and plot driven piece and the acrobatic acts incorporated into the story are exactly that. Just parts of the story. They could never stand alone in comparison to other productions but they add a wild Na’vi sensibility to the story. So be wary, those of you who are Cirque fans and are accustomed to a certain level of act. These are markably tamer but still fun nonetheless. But control expectations in terms of aerial acrobatics. (Take note though that Kurios, Cirque’s other touring production, promises the best acts of all, going right back to the true high-flying roots of the human acts.)

I enjoyed this production very much. I would recommend those of you who have the opportunity to definitely watch it. If it came down to this or Kurios (which I have not yet seen but plan on attending in October) I might tell you to reserve yourself for Kurios but if you want to see amazing set design, incredible puppetry, a plot-driven story, and moving musical pieces, then fly to Turok.

Side note: HOW AWESOME IS THIS. CIRQUE LIKED MY TWEET!

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YEEEEAH!

Day 75

Man: 57 Loneliness: 18

Day 73 Supplemental: The Lover’s Guide to Swedish Furniture Making; ‘Fragile’

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Call me crazy, but there’s something about a bellyful of crawfish and the smell of balsa wood that get the romantic juices flowing. Hahah. So let your friendly neighborhood Man share with you some of his secret insider tips to successful romantic dates at your IKEA.

First off, I want to make this very clear, I was doing this waaay before the movie (500) Days of Summer used IKEA as the setting for one of the sweetest movie date scenes I’ve ever seen. The movie came out in 2009. I saw it for the first time on DVD, though we’ll assume it was released on DVD the same year. I was 19 at the time. I was already dating and driving when I was 18. So you know…just saying. I didn’t copy nobody! This is all genuine, 100% Man. But (500) definitely nailed it too. Just watch:

I will always promote IKEA as an excellent date option that is creative, unique, romantic, and very personal. I wouldn’t make this the first date (unless there’s some sort of established inside joke or connection or you know, you met there) but it is definitely a great date to get to know the person and harmlessly imagine the future. It’s a no-risk, high-reward, low-pressure situation. So let’s call that oh I don’t know…date 5 or 6?

Crawfish Sign.jpgFirst, let’s grab dinner at the Cafe. Did you all know that IKEA has a cafe that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner? Great food, incredible cost. Very DIY. Grab a tray for you and your date and get in line. I recommend the standard meatballs, mashed potatoes, gravy, and lingonberry sauce. Perhaps the two of you can also share a smoked salmon plate. And, trust me on this, IKEA has some of the best fries ever. Very much like Belgian frites, the fries at IKEA are thick cut but twice-fried for a super crispy crunchy outside and a light, fluffy, warm inside. There are some very nice desserts but please, take my advice, pass on it for now and save it for a little afternoon coffee date. Dessert comes later!

I like grabbing a meal from the IKEA Cafe for a couple reasons. Yes, the food is actually surprisingly good. And yes, the cost is incredibly economical. It was a godsend for a piss-poor college student. But it is exactly that college dining mentality I wanted to recreate. The fine dining and gourmet restaurants are all good and fun. First couple of dates, you want to bring out the best. In everything. Your personality. Your interests and hobbies. Your mannerisms. And of course, the food. But life isn’t always about the best. The best is easy to get used to. You want to know that the two of you are going to be okay with…the medium. Not bad. Not the best. But medium. That’s why I like to take a date here. It’s nice to date someone who knows how to appreciate a fine meal. But it’s equally nice to date someone who can still appreciate meatballs at a furniture store. It’s a…’can we be comfortable with each other’ kind of thing. Who doesn’t want someone who can rock the LBD at Le Grand and a plaid polo and jeans at IKEA? I don’t think I could date someone who only wanted one or the other.

Alright you’re full, you’re happy, you need something to do. Time to explore! IKEA is literally a playground for adults. There are the scattered apartment configurations (780,Ikea Showroom.jpg
550, 400, even 280 sq foot models!) and then there are all the model offices, bedrooms, bathrooms, and kitchens. I love walking through all of them. You get a real feel for the personality of a person during these visits. Their style, their preferences, and their priorities. You sit in the model kitchens and you see how the two of you could work together. How do you orchestrate your movements in those tiny kitchens. I go to the fridge. She goes to the stove. For a brief moment we are only inches away from each other. We could get closer…we could touch…get lost…ah! But don’t spill the sauce. Don’t burn the roast. And we need to get the ice from the freezer. So we keep dancing around each other. In the offices, we talk priorities. Whose office are we in. What do we do in this office. Who do we do it for. What are we dreaming of. I see past, present, and future. In no certain terms, with no judgements or conclusions, we talk about where we see ourselves. I admire a woman with direction. In the bedrooms words are picked carefully. This bed is comfy. Why don’t you try it. How do you sleep. Which side of the bed. Check out this killer walk-in closet. It even has a viewing mirror and a chair. So for example…maybe I sit here…and you say something like…’I need help picking an outfit for this meeting’ or ‘what should I wear to tonight’s party’ or ‘what do you think of this I picked up today’. What do you think of that arrangement. Play house for a little bit. Have fun. Pretend and let the fantasy live in IKEA. No one has to bring it out, no one has to assemble it just yet. Let me pretend to cook for you at the kitchen island. Let’s entertain guests in our tiny-ass apartment. Let’s check out the plates and silverware.

ikea-sundaeAlright! You’ve successfully navigated the maze of the IKEA showroom. I mean come on…the metaphors practically jump off the screen at you by this point, no? Let’s get our just desserts for walking together all this time (hitting you over the head yet). Right after the registers is the IKEA snack bar. Dollar hot dogs, cinnamon buns, please don’t ever get their abomination of a pizza, and of course, frozen yogurt sundaes and cones. Dollar dollar billikea-cone y’all. I personally prefer the cone. Your date may want a sundae. Strawberry or chocolate sauce with that?

You just had an incredible time at the same place you bought your dorm room furniture. Who knows. You may have to return one day to pick up furniture for your apartment. Or just go back because it’s fun and it’s playful and the showroom changes all the time to showcase the new designs.

Just remember. Be careful. Like our hearts, the furniture may be ömtålig. (Check the Daily Prompt to figure out what that one says in Swedish.)

 

Day 73: The Man and the Distance Between Words

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I dreamt of Beautiful again last night.

I really don’t know why. I haven’t thought of her in weeks. I don’t miss her. And ever since I wrote my post on social media being the devil, I am proud to say I’ve stayed strong and since then I’ve unfriended her on FB to avoid seeing her posts and I’ve had the self-control and self-discipline to not visit her blog in some vanity-driven quest to see if she’s missing me or writing about me or what a big mistake this all was. I’ve done the necessary steps, I’ve taken care of myself, so I really wonder what ingredients had to be mixed together to create the cocktail of last night’s dream.

I remember it starting off with me, Beautiful, and my group of friends all at Chinatown in NYC, one of our favorite late night hangout spots. We’re looking around, checking out shops, I’m holding her hand. I see my usual martial arts supply vendor and decide to take a look around. I see the dao I was working with during my martial arts retreat and get excited. I start to swing it around and test it, I happily tell her all about it and the kind I bought and the history of the weapon but she seems bored and uninterested, so I put it down and we keep walking. Then it’s my favorite part. The food! Chinatown is a glorious budget smorgasbord for the adventurous. I remember wonton noodle soup, xiao long bao (soup dumplings), har kaw (crystal shrimp dumplings), siopao (okay that’s a Filipino word but it refers to Chinese meat buns; my favorite are the white siopao with ground pork, mushroom, egg, and Chinese sausage), beef tendon, bubble tea, and salt-pepper squid. She isn’t eating and I notice this. We remove ourselves from the group and duck into a side-street to talk, only she isn’t saying anything. I want to know what’s going on. Why she’s giving off so many strange vibes but not saying what’s wrong. She tells me she needs to go back, take the night, and we can talk in the morning.

I stay out all night and don’t get back home til sunrise the next day. I am nervous and fearful of the call. It is afternoon now and I still haven’t heard from her. Anxiously, I text her ‘Hey, love’. The phone rings. ‘Hi [my name].’

That’s all I need to hear. I know what’s coming at the end of this conversation. She never used my name. It was always a nickname, or if not, it was ‘Baby [my name]’ because of how lost in my interests and hobbies I get and how adorable she thought it was when I was so giddy and excited. Like a baby. Her baby.

I’m sitting in my living room and as soon as I hear her say my name I start bawling. I’m kicking at the coffee table between heaving sobs. ‘Why,’ I ask. ‘What happened to us.’ But this is my dream. This Beautiful only know what I know. So she says only what I can answer for her. 

‘I don’t know.’

Like I said, I don’t know why this came up again. I’ve been doing really well; better than I could have expected actually. It’s hard to think that the events that hurt me so much, the events that pushed me to create this blog, happened only 73 days ago. About two and a half months have gone by since she left me and since I started this journey of reflection and growth. It’s hard to envision two and a half months when I’m writing on average 1.000 words each day that goes by. I’ve never written this much before and certainly not at such a consistently maintained pace. This has definitely helped me process things and get over the hurt much quicker and more effectively though. I’ve never talked through a breakup or had such a far-reaching opportunity to share my story. Even though I don’t talk about it as much and I’ve been able to move on to discussing other things, the simple matter of writing has taken everything that could have hurt me in my head and poured it out through my fingertips. I’ve expelled so many doubts and worries. Each word I type puts more distance between me and her. Maybe this is why I have so much to say and why I want to say so much.

Still it is very clear I am not immune to pain. There will of course be obstacles, as there are in anyone’s path. I still think I am happily and healthily over her and the breakup. I just think I can’t deny I miss having someone. That is right now the hardest part. The fear of being alone. When you’re with someone, you don’t really spend much of that time envisioning when and why you’ll grow apart. You only hope that if it happens, you’ll know why. People can change, that’s a fact. For better or for worse. You hope that each time a relationship fizzles you are strong enough and humble enough to take what you can out of it and be better next time. But when it seems so right and so strong…and you’re left with so little to go on…you fear you lost your progress.

It is unrealistic and vain to think ‘I did nothing wrong’. ‘It was all her, none of this was me’. I’m not saying I could have changed to save the relationship, I’m saying I could learn from this too of what my shortcomings were and how I could continue to improve. I did not get that conversation. And to be honest, I don’t think I ever will. Partly because there is nothing left for her to say and partly also because she has neither the strength nor the awareness herself to know. I will have to grow on my own, I have to be courageous to face each new opportunity and hungry enough to keep learning. I certainly fear and hope I won’t be alone forever. I hope I learn enough to realize what it is I truly seek and am able to recognize when it is in front of me. I hope I can learn from the mistakes of the past and avoid them in the future.

Her and her pain feel more like the Boogeyman than anything else now. Just a reflection of a primal fear embodied in a more modern and more attractive face. The nightmares will come. But we all know that eventually we wake up. And today I wake up to a work day that consists of nothing but a longer than usual drive home. And afterwards, I’ll be meeting a friend at IKEA. It’s time for their annual crawfish party. Maybe I can dream of that instead.

Day 73

Man: 55 Loneliness: 18

Day 72: The Man and the Road Home; ‘Slog’

Update on the work situation after a week on the road with the new girl.

There’s a four hour slog ahead of me tomorrow to get from Syracuse, NY back home. I’ll have no problem with four hours on the road. It’s the four hours in the car that’ll whittle my senses down to the bone.

No, that’s especially harsh; that was uncalled for. But quite good, no?

The truth of the matter is I can’t stand her vaping in the car. The window has to stay open to release the smoke and it causes a terrible noise that hurts my ears and gives me a headache. She makes Asian jokes because I eat ‘strange things’ to her (I ordered sushi). Drives take extra long because we have to take multiple pit stops along the way.

But the true, truer truth of the matter is…at least now there’s two of us. Two to answer emails. Two to travel. Two to handle calls. And in that respect I am appreciative. I can work with her. She seems to learn quickly (we’ll see how much she processes over the weekend). I now at the very least have a work companion.

I am a very reserved person; I do not like crowds and I am not really one for socializing. I don’t know if it’s the company I work for or a thing in general, but I don’t understand the constant push and pressure for people to constantly be together. Was it rude of me to decline her invitation because I would honestly prefer to sit here in my hotel room writing while she went off to the nearby mall? I haven’t been so uncouth as to force her to eat alone; we’ve always had our meals together but with us finishing so early today I wanted to use the opportunity to write instead of socialize.

Maybe I am too used to either being with friends and family or being alone on the road. This middle ground is murky and the outline is too foggy to really see clearly. I think I’ve been balancing the line pretty well though.

I understand as adults it is difficult to foster relationships with other people because life becomes so controlled by work and home. This is probably why most adults make friends of coworkers. I’m not looking for that though. Is it so wrong to want to keep coworkers coworkers? I don’t snub them in conversation. I don’t ignore them. I enjoy catching up and spending the occasional lunch with some of the other people who work back in HQ. But with five days on the road together constantly being in each other’s face I need some alone time to recharge.

All I’m trying to say is, the week went by okay. The stores were fine, I focused more on training her while she focused on training consultants. I’ve not made such a disaster of the trip and have been able to enjoy myself. Some fine meals, a few nice conversations, a relief not to have to always be driving. Just…someone tell me it’s okay to not have to be friends with people you work with or spend all the time with them.

Day 71 Supplemental: The Man and the Size of the Glass; ‘Perplexed’

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I gotta say…

Between ‘stump’, ‘radical’, and now ‘perplexed‘…it’s like the Daily Prompt people wanted me to finish this series on Zen Koan.

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I’m certainly not one to question the infinite wisdom of the prompt-givers so I must conclude this series with my own reflections on the very koan I proposed to you all.

Now before I write my own reflections, there are four very important things I want you to remember.

  1. I hope you all had a chance to at least sit with one of these koan for some time, or if not, I continue to implore you to experience what it is like to simply sit with a question and not worry about the answer. It will be a revelatory experience on what is important to your self at this moment and it will be great exercise for you when you are posed with serious, substantial questions that require careful thought and consideration.
  2. These are only my own reflections of these koan. These are only my own reflections at this time. Remember that since there is no real answer, the koan is like water. It flows without cease. The direction may be apparent, and there may be some direction that these questions are meant to flow us towards, but rivers branch off all the time, tides rise and fall, and currents always change. I do not claim to have the right answers. I only know I have the answers for myself.
  3. Beware anyone who tries to convince you of a finite point in your koan study. Do not be tempted by the promise of totality and finality. It can become frustrating to work at something with seemingly no end or logical conclusion. Enjoy the process. Walk through the forest for the sound of leaves crunching and sun peering through branches, not for the end of the trail.
  4. When you come to a conclusion that suits you and satisfies you, pass no judgement on yourself. Pass no judgement on yourself during the process either. If you are frustrated, that’s just your foot getting caught on a tree root. You don’t question your ability to walk when you trip. Do not question your ability to answer when you stumble.

Okay.

Dizang asked Xiushan, “Where do you come from?”
Xiushan said, “From the South.”
Dizang said, “How is Buddhism in the South these days?”
Xiushan said, “There is extensive discussion””
Dizang said, “How can that compare to me here planting the fields and making rice to eat?”
Xiushan said, “What can you do about the world?”
Dizang said, “What do you call the world?”

We don’t care who Dizang or Xiushan is in this koan. I could have written Larry, Moe, and Curly for argument’s sake. What we have are two students, two Buddhist monks, who are spending their day working in the fields. One (Dizang) concerns himself with where the other is from and what they are discussing back home. The other (Xiushan) questions why he concerns himself with the world. Dizang responds by asking Xiushan to define what he thinks is the world.

There are often times in our lives where we feel insignificant compared to the rest of the world. We question the efficacy of our efforts when we are just one drop in a vast ocean. We feel like blowing our breath in one direction does nothing compared to the tornado that wants to whisk us off our feet. I feel like sometimes I have not done enough to make my mark on the world. I feel disconnected and it can discourage me from continuing on my path because the magnitude of the world is overbearing and I’d much rather surrender to obscurity than to beat down at the door. But as Dizang says, ‘what do you call the world’. Perhaps I have missed my aim, or at the very least lacked focus. If my world were my friends and family, I could certainly say I’ve made my mark. But I could then succumb to ego and sit back, feeling accomplished. So I open it up just a tiny bit. How do I affect the people I work with. How can I affect the people who read my writing. How can I affect the man next to me. And then perhaps the man next to him. I can always define my world, and therefore define the scope of my actions. My world is never too small that I can touch the borders, but it is never too large that I cannot see the horizon. Right now, what I can do is live an honest and open life of reflection and sharing and inspiration. My world is those I care about, friends and family, and those who I can reach through my writing. I do not have to feel insignificant and my efforts can be effective in scope.

“What are you doing,” asked the professor.
“Programming a computer to play randomly,” said the student.
The professor said, “what does it mean to program the computer randomly?”
The student said, “I do not want it to have preconceived notions of how to play.”
The teacher then closed his eyes.
“Why do you close your eyes?’ asked the student.
The teacher replied, “So that the room will be empty.”

What is the student’s goal? To create a computer with no preconceived notions. Why does the teacher close his eyes? So that the room will be empty. How is this related? Just because the teacher does not see what is in the room does not mean there is nothing in it. The room exists independent of the teacher and therefore the things in it are independent of his sight. So we extend this to the computer. The computer has preconceived notions. It has programs and algorithms and, to the extent of ‘does a dog have Buddha nature’, perhaps we can even say the computer has its own awareness. So just because the student programs his perception of ‘randomness’, the computer will have its own patterns. This for me is a perfect metaphor for my relationships. Perhaps the reason why none have succeeded so far is that we approached each other with our own expectations and we closed our eyes to pretend that the other person didn’t have any outside of what we wanted. I must realize that no matter how I feel or what I convince myself of, I have no control or power over the other person. So therefor the pressure to ‘make someone love me’ is also relieved. Because the best I can do is to be me openly and honestly and to love them openly and honestly. I can’t force anything of the other person. That’s a big burden off my shoulders. I used to think I had to find the girl, then convince her of my worth, then make her love me. The truth it, I have to do things of worth, do things that someone would love, and let that person come. I cannot change the room, I can only choose to perceive it.

When you meet the Buddha, kill him.

Ooh this is a big one. Why would such a peaceful philosophy promote such violence? And why against such a revered figure? So one thing you might not know about Buddhism is that Buddha is not a god. Buddha is a state of being, total enlightenment that removes the soul from the cycle of reincarnation and suffering. It is complete enlightenment and universality. So literally, if you meet anything that claims to be Buddha, it is a lie. But I take this to mean something internally. That if I ever feel to be that way, I need to kill dangerous thoughts and dangerous ego. If I try to assign ‘Buddha’-hood to something, I am perceiving and judging. I need to let go. I need to let go of thoughts of ego and of loss and of fear and of insecurity. Enlightenment, confidence, awareness perhaps more applicably, is delicate and light. It is like trying to catch dandelion pollen in the air. You have to remain still, no anticipation, no judgement, and let it land on your hand. Judgements, like your fingers, are slow and heavy. They crash into the air with such force that the pollen will always be blown away. You don’t ‘catch’ these things, much like you can’t ‘catch’ the attention or affections of others or ‘catch’ true self-confidence. It comes naturally. The Buddha is supposed to come from within. You can’t meet your confidence. You can’t meet the one who claims to give it to you or have the secret to unlock it. It’s yours only. Be wary of anything else you meet.

Well, those are the thoughts that came to me after all this time. This is what the koan have given me after serious reflection and thinking about the circumstances of my life right now. I hope this helps and I hope what I have learned I will be able to carry into my life. And if it helps you along the way too, then that’s just a little ray of sunshine!