Day 208: The Man and the Total Recall; ‘Scent’

If I close my eyes and concentrate, I can still see the deep, rich hazel of her eyes. I can feel her hair tickling my neck as she rests her head on my shoulders. If I take a deep enough breath I can still catch a slight trace of her scent in the air. Sweet with a tinge of melancholy. In the most profound and all-encompassing silences of the night, her laughter echoes, and in my weakest and most desperate moments, I can hear her calling me ‘baby’ again.

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That is the beauty, and the burden, of memory. What’s more, as a storyteller, a writer, a creator, I cling to these scars like bubbling wells when I might feel thirsty or starved for inspiration. I am, for the most part, free of the emotions of these memories. When they first started popping up, I felt like a lost lonely little child in a haunted house, surrounded by the ghosts of something long dead and gone. But I’ve grown up and realized that these are benign ghosts, more like tragic tapes on permanent playback than harmful poltergeists. They are no longer intruders upon my house, but fixtures, like a chandelier that creaks in the wind or a squeaky floorboard. I can walk and weave my way through them, letting them pop up and occupy my mind for a few seconds before floating away, like wisps in the wind. I don’t think I could ever truly be entirely free of them; the memories are too distinct, too significant, too much a part of my life to be forgotten, like the name of my favorite stuffed bear when I was a tiny baby. What life, love, or longing is gone, but Beautiful remains.

And I’ve often wondered if I’d be better off forgetting it all. Freeing myself of even the seemingly benign burden of slight reminders. To say goodbye permanently to the good, the bad, and the ugly of what, seven years more or less of an intertwined story? Would my life be better, would any of our lives be better, if we possessed the ability and the luxury of wiping from our memory all of the failed, faded, or lost loves of our lives.

Now this is not a new concept. And it’s heavily and thoroughly investigated in one of my
all-time favorite movies, it’s come up before once or twice on the blog I believe, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. After a painful breakup two former lovers undergo a procedure to erase each other from their minds, only to run into each other and contemplate the possibilities of being together, knowing what could possibly await them again.

I mean, the immediate appeal is there, for sure. There would be no painful reminders. No fear of going back to some place and falling into some emotionally deep memory that you can barely get yourself out of. In the beginning of it all I might have gladly taken the option. I would have found myself in more places around my home, places I’d barred for fear of feeling too attached to the memories they brought up. Anyone who’s gone through a painful breakup can relate to that desire of wanting to just be rid of it all. Usually it is because we focus so much on the good times, the perfect moments, the snapshots, that we then idealize and gild them until they are placed on a pedestal of unrealistic proportions. The more we focus on these moments, the more we miss them, the deeper the hurt. And yet we go back to them, again and again. Why? Because a familiar pain is better than an unknown one. Why not wallow in the familiar sting of long lost love when the alternative is to go back out into the world and open yourself up to newer, potentially deeper, scars? So, burdened with the memory, we live in pain. Wouldn’t forgetting free us, then? Wouldn’t it allow us that blissful ignorance, hopeful optimism, necessary to chase after the love we once wanted? But it doesn’t work so well. Case in point, look at the characters in the movie. Look at Kirsten Dunst playing the doe-eyed assistant in love with her married doctor boss Tom Wilkinson. Spoiler alert: near the film’s conclusion we learn that the two of them have had an affair already previously, and here they are in the same situation once more. ‘Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it’. What if the price of forgetting our follies is being stuck, like those ghosts, in permanent playback, doomed to constantly chase after the same, make the same mistakes, and run away from the same problems?

Up until now, I’ve lived in that sort of realm of possibility. I’ve only ever wondered, ‘what if I could forget’. And it is partly because I’ve never had an alternative to consider. Until that is, I watched Netflix’s show Black Mirror, and in particular the episode The Entire History of You. A wonderful piece of technology from the future, only referred to as a ‘grain’, allows its users to capture everything they ever see and play it back either in their minds or on screens in homes and at offices. An infinite playback reel going back to infancy, capturing every moment, every nuance, in picture-perfect real-life definition. It lets people replay interviews to analyze how well it went, watch a baby’s feed to make sure the babysitter was gentle and safe, or even play back those better moments of past relationships. But total recall comes at a price, the price of security, privacy, trust, but most surprisingly, happiness.

As one pro-grain user in the episode says, ‘half the organic memories you have are junk’. It can’t be trusted. How many memories have we blown out of proportions. How many childhood lakes as large as oceans and filled with pristine beautiful blue waters have turned out to be shallow mucky ponds in adulthood? Wouldn’t it be better to have preserved everything as it truly was. There’d be no doubt, no worry. I could replay over and over, again and again, catch myself browsing ‘redos’ in my mind until I go dizzy. I’d catch the moments in picture perfect clarity, to bask in past glory or to fanaticize over failures. But then again…that’s the problem. I’d catch the moments in picture perfect clarity, or fanatacize over my failures. There is this wonderfully poignant scene where the main couple are making actual real love in real life, but the movements are generic, uninspired, mechanical, their eyes glazed over as if possessed, because rather than engage in the now, they are both independently playing ‘redos’ in their mind of better, more passionate, earlier times of having sex rather than trying to capture that now. And how many of us would be guilty of choosing to relive the past rather than appreciate the present. And with permanent records, how many could resist the temptation to go back to fantasies and memories of past loves. Or grill our partners on their past. With the power and the ability to project exact memories, how many of us could resist digging into that even knowing full well how painful those memories could be? The history of your partner is right there at your fingertips. You know it could possibly hurt you, maybe even too much to handle, and yet…the temptation. The possibility. The all-too-familiar pain.

And so I pose to you this conundrum. What would you rather have. In what world would you rather live. How best do you move on. Would you rather forget everything after a breakup, or have everything captured forever. Total recall, or total wipe.

And, before some of you answer, while you are contemplating this over your morning toast and tea, I say you must choose one or the other. Making a choice, to remember or to forget, reveals a lot. Remaining neutral does not. So, no ‘neither, because I believe you can make new and better memories with the right person that will override past memories and I need to remember the past to learn from my mistakes’. Sorry, can’t play both sides. Hahah. (Just teasing, but yes, you will need to make a choice. :P)

Day 208

Man: 176 Loneliness: 32

Day 207: The Man and the ‘Leg Up’on Tradition; ‘Replacement’

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Ahahah. Get it?! It’s a ‘leg up’ because it’s duck legs!

Wonderful, delicious, fatty, rich duck legs.Made even more wonderful using what is perhaps the most recognized Filipino dish, adobo.

Recently I’ve been loving playing around with Filipino food and Filipino recipes. Honestly Filipino cuisine is a wonderful playground for creative minds for three reasons.

The first is that Filipino food is, by its very nature, improvisational. It is hard to nail down a uniform Filipino culinary identity. Most Filipino recipes rely on a sense of ‘tantsya‘ or ‘cooking by feeling’. The senses take over and inform the decision making. You know what adobo should taste like, look like, smell like, so you chase after that image in your head. The basic technique, the major underlying characteristics, are there but the specific amounts and ratios can vary from person to person, day to day, mood to mood. For example, the Filipino version of adobo is meat simmered in a mixture of soy sauce and vinegar. But how much soy, how much vinegar, that’s entirely up to you. But not only that, whatever else you add may be subject to regional, familial, or personal preference as well! Can I say with 100% certainty that adobo should also include onions, garlic, and bay leaves? No, I cannot. Did mine? Yes, it did. A TON of garlic. Why? Because I LOOOVE garlic and this is my baby after all. But you can add as little or as much or none at all, based on what you want. And still every single version of this dish can be called, without a doubt, adobo. Why? Because it still has the same feeling. Travel around the Philippines and you may find a hundred different version of the same dish, each highlighting different aspects or regional flavors, but all of them will be immediately recognizable. Because of this, the Filipino chef is not afraid to experiment and is never unsure or uncertain what to do in the kitchen. Give them enough ingredients, and they’ll be able to make anything close to home.

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Which brings us to the second point. What I have loved discovering about Filipino cuisine recently is how international it really is. Now I know Thailand and Vietnam with their French, Dutch, and English influences has really dominated the Southeast Asian food revolution, but don’t forget that the Philippines was for a very long time colonized, and therefore influenced, by the Spanish. So while we have our own very distinct and local ways of preparing dishes and flavoring foods, we also have that wonderful Spanish culinary background. I have been looking up some of the most popular and well-known Filipino dishes in the Philippines and I’ve realized so many of them have counterparts in other well-known cuisines. We’ve been right there with France and Italy and all the Asian culinary giants this entire time! You love French escargots or maybe frog legs? We do them too. Thai peanut sauce really get you going? Kare-kare is a stew of vegetables and beef in a rich peanut sauce. Japanese tempura? Try our camaro rebosado and forget about it. I’m not saying Filipino food is the end all be all. I’m saying that Filipino food has had an international sense for a very long time but has lacked the international recognition (I feel) it deserves. But it’s great for me because I get to play around with this bridge. I can use these similarities to bridge the familiar with the new. For example, this duck adobo, simmered in this sauce and its own fat, is just close enough to duck confit for those who have never tried it before. If you’ve grown up eating, or better yet cooking and preparing, every cuisine but Filipino, I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how many things we’ve already been doing.

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And the third best thing about experimenting and cooking with Filipino food is while the techniques may be universally recognizable, the ingredients certainly are not! And this is where I really get to have fun with experiments, replacements, and substitutions. For example, I love that this version of adobo with the duck is also a great way to introduce more people to itlog na maalat, or preserved duck eggs. These salt-cured eggs are soaked in a brine for a couple weeks giving them a completely different texture and very strong taste. But its saltiness wonderfully and perfectly complements the complexity of the adobo and with the fresh ripe juicy tomatoes, it is a common pairing in the Philippines. I love these eggs, often times having them at breakfast with fish or dinner with adobo or any time we need a quick and easy vegetable side that still packs plenty of flavor and character. Another wonderfully unique and complex Filipino ingredient would be taba ng talangka, or crab fat. The fat of small, local crabs is painstakingly harvested from hundreds and then sauteed in garlic to create a paste that is seafood-y, slightly brine-y, and chock full of the same umami characteristics as say, Japanese uni (sea urchin) only often times at a fraction of the cost. I get to use these very Filipino ingredients and dishes (like sisig, which will make an appearance later on) and showcase them in Filipino riffs of other cuisine’s dishes to do the reverse. I can either showcase Filipino ingredients by using them in familiar recipes, or use Filipino recipes to reintroduce people to familiar ingredients.

I still have plenty more recipes to experiment and to share so I hope you all enjoy!

Day 207

Man: 175 Loneliness: 32

Day 205: The Man and the Poseidon’s FEAST; ‘Automatic’

Happy weekend everyone! Hope you’ve got something fun on your itinerary. As you may already have read, I’m using this time alone at home to do some serious cooking!
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Sides dishes tonight. Sauteed Chinese spinach with sesame seeds/oil. Pickled garlic. Sauteed bean sprouts. Shredded mushrooms.

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The main course! Poseidon’s feast. A lobster boil for one. Clams, shrimp, crab, lobster, and spicy andouille sausage. I saute some onions and garlic in butter then add all the ingredients and top it off with a quality beer. A local brewery opened up nearby and I’ve become a regular. They have this great witbier with a slight hint of honey that was perfect to cook this with and to pair it with. Just watching some movies and cracking into everything with a cold beer is an automatic win for the weekend. Plus you know that the leftover stock is going to make an incredible base for lobster bisque!

Wish you all a good weekend!

Day 205

Man: 173 Loneliness: 32

Day 202: The Man and the KISS; ‘Simple’

As in, ‘Keep It Simple Stupid’.

More meditation than recipe, Peaceful Cuisine on YouTube has been a calming channel I like to turn to when I’m either hungry or stressed, as it either heightens one emotion or calms the other. There is a tranquility and a harmony in the sounds of a home kitchen that, as my hero Anthony Bourdain would tell you, do NOT exist in the professional kitchens. Professional kitchens are loud, energetic, violent playgrounds. Even when cooking for a party or for a date there is music, conversation, frantic movement.

What I’ve loved about cooking for myself these past few weeks is the quiet and calm of cooking at my own pace, flavoring to my desire, steering in my direction. There is nothing over-complicated or overbearing. I have no rush, no deadline. I have been tempted at times to play music, but I get into this rhythm, this Zen, and I don’t want to draw away from it. It is in this quiet, focused, Zen state of mind that I am most at peace and yet also at my most confident and commanding.

In the spirit of KISS, I don’t want to bury you in words. I hope you find some peace in solitude.

Day 202
Man: 170 Loneliness: 32

Day 201: The Man and the Open-Ended Quiz; ‘Ten’

Seems with the day’s prompt, everyone is doing top ten lists or ten x or ten y of things.

I talk a lot about myself as it is, so actually, I’d like to find out more about you. So…

Here are my ten questions that I would love to hear your answers to!

Don’t worry. (I think) they’ll be fun and interesting and unique, and nothing self-serving like ‘tell me what you like about me’. Hahah. Just fun silly questions.

For example…

  1. If your life were to be likened to a food, what would it be and why?

So think of this like…if you had to represent your life in terms of food. Maybe you’d be sushi because you’re a salty and fishy person. Hahah. Or a Sour Patch Kid because first you’re sour, then you’re sweet. Or maybe something like chicken a la king. You’re hearty, filling, but you’re made of whatever we’ve found in the kitchen and no one knows where you originally came from.

2. What is the best way for a movie to live on?

I’m sure you could easily write just ten favorite movies with no problem whatsoever. But what I want to know is, how should we celebrate a good movie? It seems original ideas are running in short supply nowadays in Hollywood, as plenty of studios are now just remaking/rehashing old fan-favorites. If you really loved a film from your youth, would you be happy to see a remake being done? Or do you think a movie’s legacy is best celebrated with sequels to continue the original story? How about a TV series that follows the main characters post-movie or a spin-off based around memorable background characters? There are plenty of ways to celebrate the movies that meant a lot to us. Book adaptations. Broadway plays. Putting them back in theatres. What would make you most excited in terms of some of your favorite movies.

3. What is a cuisine you have not had the chance to try but would like to?

At times this blog does move towards a more food-centered focus, like my lobster boil or my love affair with lamb. I’ve tried plenty under the sun but I know there’s always more to discover. For example, a lot of my former students were of Jamaican descent, and they would tell me about the food their mothers would make, and I had a chance to try a wonderfully rich and spicy goat curry when I went to Montego Bay for work, but I’d like to really try more authentic Jamaican food. Jerk chicken and pork chops and catfish. I also want to have like real pub food. Bangers and mash. Fish and chips. Shepherd’s pie. A full English with the eggs and pudding and beans and grilled tomatoes and bacon and sausage! But what about you? What cuisine’s wonders have you yet to unlock?

4. How do you pamper yourself?

We all work hard, so it’s important to play hard too. So when it’s time to kick back and relax, or maybe get kicked and pumped, what do you do? How do you take care of your own happiness, mental health, well-being, zen?

5. If you could send someone else anywhere in the world, who would it be and where would you send them?

I am giving you the power to choose any one person and send them to any location in the world. Send your archenemy to Antarctica or drop them into the heart of the Amazon jungle. Give your best friend their dream vacation to Australia or Hawaii. Maybe you feel your neighbor should make a visit to Looneyville, TX.

6. Would you rather be able to eat anything you want without getting fat or never have to sleep?

Get more done or eat more buns, y’all!

7. What was the last most vivid dream you recall having?

Creative minds should result in some very interesting and complex dreams. So what was the last one that really made an impression, enough to still remember?

8. If I gave you the power to go back in time, would you choose to go back 10 seconds, 10 minutes, 10 hours, 10 days, 10 months or 10 years?

Keeping in mind wherever you go, you will continue on from that point but keeping everything you know now.

9. What happens to you when you get hungry?

Are you a hangry Hulk or a peckish pea-brain? When hunger strikes, how are you affected?

10. What is something almost everyone notices about you immediately upon meeting you?

Maybe it’s your laugh or some fact about you that you just cannot help but share upon meeting people. What is your unmistakable unmissable trait?

Anyways, I hope you find at least some of these intriguing enough to answer. I’d really love to read some of your responses and I’m looking forward to them!

Day 201

Man: 169 Loneliness: 32

Day 200: The Man and the Tower of Barbs; ‘Devastation’

On this historic and momentous occasion…

HA. That sure as hell sounded pretty full of myself, didn’t it?

I am pretty excited and downright thrilled though that I’ve made it to day 200. I am a little more than halfway through and the growth I have experienced as a writer, a person, and as a member of this blogging community, has been really inspiring. I’ve been having a lot of fun, still looking forward to every day’s opportunity to write and reflect, and even more so looking forward to the feedback of the readers. The well hasn’t even nearly begun to bottom out, and it feels like it continues to get deeper and that I am continuing to find more and more worth writing about. I even have some ideas of what I’d like to do post-MvL experiment phase.

But let me tell you something about fun…

I have been addicted to this game ever since I heard about it. And I was behind the ball here. A million people downloaded this game after it came out and that’s when I heard about it. A million downloads for a free-to-play game is a pretty big deal. Often times these games have limited exposure and budget. Not to mention that the free-to-play model (often shortened to ‘F2P’) is usually plagued with a flurry of micro-transactions and ‘pay to win’ gimmicks that end up making these games more expensive than big-budget studio releases. I decided to give it a try after such overwhelmingly positive and viral reactions. I am so glad I did, as this has easily become one of my most favorite games on PS4 so far.

The Story

Let us embark on on a journey of discover about the many wonders of the Tower of Barbs. The Tower of Barbs is located on the tiny 3.7 sq mi island of South Tokyo. Legend has it that this island was formed during the Earth-rage tectonic disturbance of 2026. The Tower stands at 1686 feet, the equivalent of a 30-story building with super high ceilings. Many say that the Tower is actually growing with each passing year. Legend has it that a great treasure lies at the top of the Tower. As such, many brave people often attempt to climb the Tower to obtain its riches. However, none have managed to survive the Tower’s horrific trials; and thus the Tower stands as a grim reminder of the many lives lost in search of this mythical treasure. I hope that you too will enjoy your climb of the Tower, and experience the many wonders that it has to offer.

Let It Die’s story is just the right balance of not giving too much information. It’s in the details that aren’t shared where the game takes on its air of mystery and intrigue. And, Let It Die is actually a game within a game. Now, stay with me on this. The game you play, ‘Let It Die’ is set in a world where you are a person inside an arcade playing ‘Tower of Barbs’. Trippy, right? But how cool is that! You’re a gamer, IN a game, PLAYING a game! The ‘real world’ extends only as far as the confines of this nameless mysterious ‘Arcade’ but it is just fleshed out enough to feel immersive. And within the ‘Tower of Barbs’ is a world of violence, survival, formidable bosses, ‘Haters’, ‘Hunters’, and endless exploration. You want to climb the Tower of Barbs. You want to know what is waiting for you at the top. And every time something new is unlocked for you, you’re excited.

The Music

Akira Yamaoka, who worked on Silent Hill, Shadows of the Damned, and the Silent Hill movie, is the man behind the music of Let It Die. It is honestly one of the best and most extensive game playlists I’ve seen. More than a hundred Japanese bands of different styles have been featured in the game offering endless options for in-game soundtrack. More so though, the ambient music sets just the right tone and environment during play. Your heart starts to speed up in rhythm to the fast, intense rock riffs when an enemy spots you and starts chasing. You can almost feel the vibrations in the large echo-chamber like rooms that you explore. The metal clanging in the distance, the ever-present guttural growls of enemies around the corner, the array of sounds and effects create an otherworldly experience.

The Characters

From Meijin, the pro-gamer dispensing sage advice at different times during the game, to Kommodore Suzuki, the merchant/craftsman who builds and improves your in-game gear, the characters of Let It Die have powerful, effective, memorable personalities that make them fun to interact with. You will, over the course of the game, be interacting with every character, as they all serve important purposes. Naomi in the Arcade gives you extra quests to add new obstacles and offer tempting rewards. Meijin will give relevant and often timely advice as you progress along the Tower. Both the Kommodore and the Mushroom Magistrate offer aid in the form of items and gear to help you gain an advantage along your journey.

Within the Tower are interesting and grotesque bosses with pure destructive power. If you’re lucky, you’ll also run into the ‘Moving Department Store’ that gives you the chance to buy ultra-rare and valuable materials and blueprints but for a hefty price. I absolutely love how the game has created its characters. There is a style, like the indifferent bubblegum schoolgirl look of Naomi to the grotesque nature of the mid-boss Coen. There is personality, like Meijin’s hardcore gaming focus and the Mushroom Magistrate’s obsession with the power of ‘shrooms.

But none are more entertaining, more fascinating, and more immediately memorable and likeable, as the skateboard riding, sunglass wearing, accent-heavy Uncle Death, your number one fan.

Everything about this guy screams ‘cool’, man. The sunglasses, the skateboard, the accent, (Finnish, btw), the way he calls you ‘senpai’ (something like upper-classman in Japanese). He’s there offering you advice, sending you emails, and when you land a particularly gory attack, he pops up on your screen to congratulate you. No one wants to see you beat the game more than your sickle-wielding friend, and you better not disappoint!

The Gameplay

Not going to lie, this game is not for the faint of heart. For gamers, it is best described as Resident Evil meets No More Heroes meets Dark Souls. For non-gamers, think of it as a survival horror. You are trying to climb to the top of a tower, not knowing what enemies and horrors await, with an exhausting and frantic combat system that relies on precision timing and fast reflexes. But more than anything else, this game is about death, violence, and devastation. Your most powerful moves are meant to kill enemies in one hit, so they are often comically violent. There is a playfulness to the madness, but one I think only a hardcore gamer would be able to appreciate. In a way, whenever I discover a new weapon on one of the floors, I am excited to see what crazy over the top violent things I can do with it against enemies. The combat is unforgiving and exact, but super-rewarding when you time it just right and are rewarded with a shower of blood and coins. It is difficult and sensitive enough that you never really feel like you have too much of an advantage, even if you are multiple levels higher and better armed than your opponents. Anything can change in the blink of an eye, and if you are reckless enough or unfortunate enough to draw a crowd, you’d better be prepared. Everything from the environment to the equipment you use (traffic cone helmets, pipe hammers, jackets made from rain ponchos) contributes to this idea of survival at any cost. And when you’re low on health being chased by a ‘Hater’ and you’re munching on the grilled body of a frog you found, you feel like ‘anything’ is exactly what you’ll need to do to survive.

I anticipate many sleepless nights with this game, and with the opportunity to continue to add more floors and further developments, I hope to be playing this game for a very long time. It’s slick, stylish, fun, and exciting. And if any of you happen to be climbing, if I happen to send some of my fighters to hunt you down, try not to take it personally. Hahah.

Oh and as a fun side note, I’ve been naming all my fighters after the bloggers I regularly interact with on here! So whether you play or not, chances are there is a version of you climbing up the Tower and slicing off heads!

Day 200

Man: 168 Loneliness: 32

Day 199: The Man and the Missed Anniversary; ‘Oversight’

Today would have been our anniversary.

the office

When we first started dating back in college, we wanted some time just to test the waters, no need to rush. We made it official on January 23rd because we liked the idea of ‘1-2-3’. Easy to remember, and you could make a wish on a day like that. Hahah.

When we got back together last year, or were in the process of doing so, I asked her out for our first date on January 23rd. It’s kind of crazy to think that an entire year has already past. We didn’t even make it to the halfway point.

January 23rd has therefore always been an important day for me. Either I had something to celebrate, or something to miss. This is the first year I can say with full confidence that though I might not have something really to celebrate (other than being a day short of the big 200!) I also have nothing I could say that I miss.

But it is an interesting coincidence though that on this 23rd of January I do have to say goodbye.

Image result for hot pot gifOh maybe I should clarify! I’m not going anywhere. Slight trolling on my part. Hahah. Actually this is more of a reflection on the weekend; as most of you regular readers know I had my annual hot pot/sleepover over the weekend. Or at least, I tried to.

We do this every year and every year I am a more than willing host, partly because my parents love to vacation for months at a time and partly (mainly) because I am the only one in our group who ever offers to host or else we’d have had to do this at some overpriced restaurant every time. And every year we treat it as an opportunity to let loose and get drink just a bit more than usual because everyone stays overnight and then we have a big Filipino (read: hangover cure) breakfast the next morning. It’s a big tradition in our group. I thought these meant something to people. Maybe traditions have lost their significance. Maybe we’re all after the newest things, consumers of trends rather than bastions of tradition. Or maybe I’ve put too much into people whose only fault is that they just don’t care. Like at all.

Aside from the assumption of longstanding tradition, I have the written texts of all my friends confirming they were ready, able, and committed to this weekend’s events. It is not until the very day as I am picking them up at their homes (again, the idea was everyone would stay) that every single one of them tells me that they will not be spending the night.

Image may contain: foodI hate to say it but internally I immediately reverted back to my 7-year old self, thinking ‘well that’s fine, I didn’t want to hang out with you anyways, pfffbt’. The truth is it hurts. I feel like a child who’s been walking around holding something in my hands and wanting to show it off to other people and tell them how valuable it is and someone takes one look at it and tells me all I’ve actually got is some dirt or trash.

Apart from all of that and despite having to cut festivities short, we did have a pretty great time though. That’s the thing of it. We can always make a great time of whatever we do. Image may contain: foodWe had plenty of food, music playing in the background while we ate and drank, and the communal nature of a hot pot (everyone placing different things into the boiling broth and fishing out whatever catches their eye) really brought us together while eating. We had to do the grocery shopping together, we prepped all the ingredients together, set everything up, and took everything down. I had a giant Jenga tower for us to play (penalty shots of course) and then we whipped up some meringue and made a baked Alaska for dessert. While everyone was sobering up we played some Crabs Adjust Humidity (not an auto-correct typo, a great copycat game of Cards Against Humanity with better cards) and my friend even brought back souvenirs from his trip to Japan with his girlfriend.

Image may contain: foodSunday I had the day to myself again. I cleaned the house, just as I did the week before in preparation, loaded/unloaded the dishwasher, went grocery shopping, and realized I was just as happy as I was on Saturday, only minus the disappointment. Which means I can’t fault my friends. The only thing preventing me from being happy was me. And I think it’s because I’ve placed too much on these relationships. It’s hard to admit that maybe I’ve placed more value on our friendship than my friends have, but I feel that now that I have come to acknowledge this, I can be happier and enjoy and appreciate my friendship with them more, seeing it for what it really is. And that’s not to say that my friends don’t care or that I am anything less to them; it’s that I overestimated how much they cared and how much I am. But if I can successfully live in that ‘gold zone’ and be more realistic and aware, I think we’d all be better off.

I thought that the great tragedy this weekend was that I had been slighted. I wanted to be Image may contain: foodthe victim, to take offense at what I thought was being treated like an oversight. That is absolutely not the case. I’ve been thinking about ‘are these friends right for me’ and ‘what am I still getting out of maintaining these friendships’ but the truth is, I had a great time Saturday. We can still have great times together and I have no reason to want to change or leave. I do want to grow, and find people who might actually care at the same level and intensity and with the same openness and intention as I do, but I am still glad to have the friends I have.

Image may contain: foodAm I a little disappointed that their actions this past weekend clearly reflect that I’ve been pursuing much more in a well that ran out? Yes, a little. But I don’t say goodbye to my friends. I just have to say goodbye to these expectations and continue to search out. It must have been the same for when I was dating her. I placed way more into that relationship than I got out. But I am no victim and she was no villain. It’s important to get out of that ‘victim mentality’. I loved her deeply. I thought there was some great injustice to what happened between us. But I had invested too much, expected too much, in a well that was much more shallow then I could try to draw out of. It is not the fault of the well when your bucket hits the bottom. It is simply time to move on. Don’t hold on to any perceived slight, look towards more and better and deeper.

Day 199

Man: 167 Loneliness: 32

Day 195: The Man and the Uncertain Balance; ‘Overworked’

Here’s a question for you:

Would you rather be overworked or under-utilized?

Let’s define these two for clarity and purpose.

Overworked would mean that you are inImage result for sheldon paper gif a situation where you are kept busy but doing
menial tasks. Your day is constantly occupied and engaged, but what you are doing is well below your potential. It’s grunt work. There’s very little time for idleness and because of this you find your days go by quickly.


Under-utilized
would mean that you have found your purpose, recognize yoImage result for overworked gifur strengths, and are tasked with its work. But, either because of supply or demand, you find yourself with plenty of idle time. Maybe you are on a large team, and are lower on the rotation so you are called on less. Or perhaps you are so specialized that the demand is not high enough. When the work comes though it’s all-encompassing and engrossing.

Obviously the ideal situation would be to find a happy medium. A place where you are doing satisfying work and doing it throughout the day. But a lot of times it just doesn’t happen. We miss that sweet spot and find ourselves on either side of the balance board.

I’m sitting here at my desk writing this, realizing that I have so much free time on my hands, and I’m not sure how I feel about that. I do like knowing that every day I am in the office and not on the road training, I have as much time as I may need to plan and create each day’s post. I am at my most consistent when I am grounded. But my boss sits literally across the floor from me, and she must wonder why I am always so busy typing, and yet no emails are going out! Often times with a team of three two of us are at HQ and one is on the road. It’s hard to resist the temptation of idle chatter, but again, I wonder what impression it makes when my boss hears us talking about food or movies or how a truck spilled red Skittles (and only red Skittles) all over the Dodge county highway last night. (This is a true story, btw. And a true conversation.)

When I’m on the road I don’t get much time to write because my day is filled with work and purpose. I then get the luxury of retiring to a quiet empty hotel room and get to write until the late late hours of night. When I’m at HQ I try to fight the idleness by taking walks, or writing, or reading, but I can’t do with too much leisure because inevitably my boss will notice, and then suddenly I am tasked with some ridiculously inane thing like ‘make a PowerPoint presentation that no one will ever actually see, read, or present on how to do x y or z’. And even then I suppose it’s better than us making solid eye contact and watching as the slow realization of ‘why do I pay this man’ crawl across her face. I am under-utilized where I am, and overworked to punish. Hahah.

If we can’t find our perfect spot, which is better to be in then? Do you idle your day away waiting for the moment to shine, or do you engross yourself in other things and ignore the lack of purpose? Is it about waiting for the right opportunity or grabbing every one?

I think the further implications on this one speak for itself. In love, in work, in life. Do we die from waiting or from drowning? I don’t think there’s any one better than the other. It’s a deeply personal question, about what it is that becomes most important to you. To have the right one, or to have any at all. There’s no neat resolution to this. No eureka moment that could promise to tell me or you which ultimately is more worth it. I think it just has to be a part of everyday life, the struggle, the purpose, the journey.

Day 195

Man: 164 Loneliness: 31

Day 194: The Man and the Practical Eye; ‘Aesthetic’

There was a very strange moment last night, one that was so surreal that I felt I had left Image result for silly cooking gifmy body and was viewing myself in the third person. I was trying to take a photo of my food and I found myself…shuffling the broccoli and cauliflower with my hands because I wanted a ‘more balanced presentation’ of white and green. The lamb was right out of the broiler, glistening and still slightly sizzling, the entire house was perfumed by its intoxicating scent, I was drooling out the corner of my mouth, and instead of digging in, I was stacking them, like playing cards, and rearranging bits of vegetables. It was an…interesting experience, to say the very least.

I don’t usually take photos of food. I don’t usually take photos period, but perhaps least of all food. I can have very many wonderful and incredible meals without having worried about taking a picture of it first. There are of course, a few exceptions.

  1. Image may contain: foodIf I make the food, I record the food. Part of my objection is the idea of people ‘living by proxy’. You can’t find some sort of satisfaction or fulfillment in what you are doing, so you find it in what others do. You verify and legitimize your existence by collecting other people’s works. ‘Look at me as I dine here’, I must be living a good life. However if you make the food, I think you should take some credit for it at least. You worked hard. You triumphed. Or maybe you failed, I don’t know you. Doesn’t matter. It’s worth taking a picture of your efforts. Have some pride. Show off. Get those likes because you actually earned it. You didn’t just order it off a menu. Most of the pictures of food I’ve taken have been things I’ve made. And I’m especially proud of that.
  2. Memorable meals. This can be one of two things. Either the occasion, more so than the meal, was memorable and so therefore the food becomes second billing to the No automatic alt text available.company or the event and is simply included in the pics, or the meal itself was so phenomenally memorable, maybe once in a lifetime, that it is worth preserving the memory (or stealing the technique). For example, my dinner last Friday with my brother and aunt. His last meal before his flight, a rich and meaty rodizio with some incredible cuts of beef, I wanted to take pictures and remember this important moment. Or, the BEST MEAL OF MY LIFE. Last year when my friends and I splurged to the great extent of actually successfully nailing a reservation at Momofuku Ko. Oh my god. Listen. I will dedicate an entire separate post just to that meal. Suffice to say it was INCREDIBLE. I HAD to take photos of the dishes because they were so fascinating, so intriguing, so delicious. And I’m a thieving bastard so I’m totally bootlegging what I had.
  3. This is your craft. There are some incredible food bloggers out there sharing their culinary adventures either in the kitchen or on the road or a combination of both. But they have taken the time and effort to develop this seriously and professionally. Taken courses. Gotten the right equipment. Does everyone and their mother need to know you had waffles with some whipped cream for breakfast on your blurry phone camera? Probably not. But maybe you’ve got this incredible recipe for the crispiest, fluffiest waffles ever and it’s worth sharing or you’ve taken a mecca to the motherland of all waffles, Belgium, and you’ve found that hole in the wall nondescript masterpiece waffle and you have to share what this waffle is all about. Yeah then you’re probably also the kind of person who will have the right equipment and eye and technical skill, and god maybe a filter or two, and more so than that you have the vocabulary to accompany the picture. Personally, I enjoy reading Cooking without LimitsCooking with a Wallflower, The Dining Diaries, and iaccidentlyatethewholething among others. Aside from literary blogs I think food blogs are the ones I love to follow the most so I do have others, but I particularly enjoy the posts on these four. Great pictures, incredible food, but most of all, purpose. Stories. Experiences. Recipes. Passion. Accept no substitutions.

I definitely think social media has taken food pics way too seriously and valued them too highly for the quantity and quality of them now floating around. Every brunch, every cheese plate, every meal is photographed and documented. It’s not just the consumer who has been taken over with this weird obsession. How many videos or pictures on your Image result for flaming cheese pastaFacebook or whatever have you seen of these new ‘gimmick’ restaurants? Any thing and any way for a photo opportunity. I think the most recent one I saw was restaurants that bring a giant hollowed out wheel of Grana Padano cheese and a hot plate with a pan of some pasta with cream sauce. It’s then cooked table-side, then you have to wait and watch as they heat up some alcohol, then pour it into the wheel, then it lights on fire, then you pour the pasta (which has been probably overcooked by now) into the wheel and then you toss and turn and scrape and then finally it’s served but honestly…to what effect? Does the pasta taste better for all that, or does it just look better? How many places are going to light giant wheels of cheese on fire before we realize we’re adding more pomp and circumstance but not really much flavor?

When aesthetic runs away from function, purpose is lost. Have people gotten so bored with food, or so stifled in their creativity, that they are resorting to what will be the next viral YouTube or Instagram hit? Here’s a great example: burgers. When did burgers become some elaborate three story affair? You can’t even hold these things anymore! A good burger is well-seasoned quality meat, cooked well, on a fresh baked bun that keeps its firmness yet absorbs all the patty’s juices. It’s crisp lettuce, melted cheese, onions, mushrooms, and maybe some avocado or bacon if you’re feeling luxurious. But it’s first and foremost a practical food. Handheld, flavor-packed, honest food. What the heck is this then?!

What’s the POINT?!

 

This problem is far beyond just food, though it’s definitely fun to indulge in that particular gripe. It effects also another great passion of mine, martial arts. We don’t live in particularly dangerous times, and you can’t really make a living being a ‘martial artist’ anymore. So the ‘martial’ part of most martial arts has been lost, leaving just the ‘arts’. Someone saw tai chi a long time ago and realized it could be useful for joint and muscle health and flexibility as well as meditation, but maybe they forgot that in Chinese, ‘tai chi’ literally translates to ‘grand ultimate fist’, as in ‘this is the Jet Li   Tai Chi  gif art of kickassery’. Nowadays tell someone you practice tai chi and they’ll ask if it takes you an hour to throw a punch. I’ve met, and practiced with and against, some incredibly talented tai chi practitioners who still remember the practical applications and uses and let me tell you, it doesn’t disappoint. But a lot of what we see now in movies, and unfortunately propagated in many strip mall dollar version martial arts schools, is showy and flashy but not all that useful. This could be potentially deadly if you mislead your students to think they’ve learned any sort of practical self-defense, but then it is also equally damaging to the reputation and prestige of traditional martial arts. I don’t discredit modern jiu-jitsu or any of the newer stuff, but I think it’s unfair to relegate the traditional, the originals, to just pieces of fluff. Here is a video of Uncle Bill, the man I had the privilege and honor of meeting in a private seminar, showing some students the potential in what their ‘soft arts’ can do.

Ultimately, it boils down to this: if it looks pretty but it doesn’t work, it’s no good. And that’s really powerful. A job that woos you with a beer keg in the lounge and a bunch of parties and little perks like that but doesn’t fulfill you professionally or compensate you fairly is not a job worth keeping. A flashy car that gets stuck in two inches of snow isn’t worth driving. A relationship that hurts, a memory that burns, no matter how beautiful it was in the moment, it’s not worth holding onto. I don’t believe it should ever be a matter of ‘form vs function’. Form follows function. First, it has to work. First, it has to do what it’s supposed to do. Then, you make it pretty. Love hurts. Love is messy. Love is hard work. And then it’s cute. Then it’s what you see in the pictures.

Day 194

Man: 163 Loneliness: 31

Day 193: The Man and the Obligatory Company; ‘Invitation’

My next food project is an old favorite of mine, something I always love making whenever I feel like treating myself. LAMB! Food of the gods, as my father likes to call it. After beef, it is my second favorite meat. The rack of lamb, the Rolls-Royce of meat, is incredibly versatile and these perfect sized meat ‘lollipops’ are incredible roasted, herb-crusted, grilled, whatever. It is always difficult for me to resist ordering if I ever see it on a menu, especially at French restaurants. Lamb shanks are great and relatively cheap when you consider how much meat and flavor there is, especially with that rich bone marrow. Leg of lamb, oh my god, at a buffet carving station? Whoever is there quickly becomes my new best friend. But cooking at home, my absolute favorite piece to cook, are the lamb shoulder chops. I’m drooling just thinking about it and I’m already looking forward to tomorrow just because it means I’ll be having more and I just finished eating too. Hahah.

If you haven’t had the opportunity yet to try lamb, I highly recommend it. It’s low in calories, high in flavor, has a very mild gamey taste, and is incredibly tender. Lamb shoulder is a relatively cheap cut that can be grilled, braised, pan-fried, but my favorite preparation is simply broiled. The day before I season both sides of the shoulder chop with Goya Adobo seasoning. This is the magic fairy dust from which all great meat seasonings derive. Seriously, get this in your kitchen. I add extra fresh ground pepper because I find it helps to balance the fatty richness of the meat. I then spend the good portion of the rest of my day chopping up heaping tons of garlic and ginger. I mean, when you get to the point where you feel you have enough, double it, and then add more, just for safe measure. You’ll thank me later. Cover both sides of the lamb with this garlic/ginger mixture and then let it marinade in the fridge overnight. Pop it in the broiler until it’s just medium, medium-well. Please don’t overcook this delicate meat. Make sure you’ve got plenty of rice or some good bread handy. The copious amounts of garlic and ginger you spread on the lamb has roasted and absorbed all the meaty flavors and the lamb itself has rendered a good amount of sinfully rich fat. Spoon that flavor packed mixture over your rice or dip some bread into it and oh my god. I could have plenty of meals just mixing that with rice.

They were on sale at my grocer’s so for this entire week I’ll be enjoying lamb. Some meals were meant to be shared, but if you don’t mind, I’ll take this one alone. Hahah.

Having said that, I am planning on sharing some meals with friends soon. This weekend will be the invitation to our annual winter hot pot. Can’t wait for that and I’ll be sure to surreptitiously take plenty of pics. Wouldn’t want my friends to become so suspicious of my new food pic habits! Hahah. On Saturday night we’ll meet and spend the time drinking and playing games and then just have a spread of meat, vegetables, seafood, noodles, rice, all to just swish in the hot flavored broth to your preferred doneness. Great DIY food for a drinking party. Some friends will sleepover, one who lives nearby will probably go back and then come back Sunday morning, where we’ll make some breakfast, and I know my one friend has been wanting to make some baked alaska and meringue so we’ll probably just fool around doing that.

My one friend has just come back from a trip to Japan with his girlfriend, so I will be excited to hear about how that went. We’ll also get to try those drinking games I got for Christmas. It will be fun, and as I’ve mentioned before, it’ll be nice to have that connection and time to spend with them, despite the distance I might have been feeling. It will just be a bit strange because I know in the back of my head I’ll be thinking about what connects us, and trying to see what the years will bring.

That’s the plan for the next couple days at least. Hope you’re all happy, healthy, and eating plenty!

Day 193

Man: 162 Loneliness: 31