July 25, 2008


When he reflected on this he guessed that this enigmatic capacity for transference and independence that love had must also manifest itself in waking life. It is not that the woman loved is the origin of the emotions apparently aroused by her; they are merely set behind her like a light. But whereas in dreams there is still a hair's-breadth margin, a crack, separating the love from the beloved, in waking life this split is not apparent; one is merely the victim of doppelganger-trickery and cannot help seeing a human being as wonderful who is not so at all.

- Robert Musil

Sometimes, I wonder if my go-with-the-flow mentality will float me along a river that will be an amazing ride, but in the end, never leads anywhere. Kind of like one of those inner-tube pools at water parks, but faster and wilder and natural-born.

This brings up a question I've been thinking about for a long, long time:
Is the trip to the destination or the destination itself more important?

This makes me think of the Middle Ages when people suffered horribly (by today's standards) through life because they believed that their suffering would bring them closer to God. And how, if they were just good enough, they would end up in Heaven with Him. Of course, the situation now isn't as bad: the probability of me losing all my teeth before my twentieth birthday and dying from smallpox is pretty low.

So, can the two-- the joyous trip and the joyous destination-- be two ideas that can coexist at the same time?
Goodness if I know.
I sometimes worry that I'm making the wrong decision about where I'm going in life.
I know, it's a vague idea, and maybe even a silly one, being how I am. You know. Not that old.
But the anxiety is very real.
I've had a lot of time to myself, and although the idea of becoming a scientist extroardinaire thrills me, I still wonder if I'd be happy. Truth be told, I don't really know what being a scientist of sorts would entail, so conversely, I can't say that I won't be happy... but I still worry.
In an ideal world, I would be an english major, business minor, and still do a bunch of music. I'd then ship myself off to the CIA, learn how to cook, then open up my own cafe. By day, I'd be a barista/restauranteur, by night, I'd be a musician, and in my free time, I'd write. What I'd write, I have no clue about, but I always have the itch to write about something.
You may be wondering why if I know so well what I want, then why I'm still here writing about it instead of well, doing it.
I do know what's stopping me: For now, all I know is the ride. And the ride is all I'm here for. And maybe along the way, I'll stop and collect my thoughts, and maybe I'll have enough to say to actually take it to pen and paper.

July 24, 2008

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

"Let me be something every minute of every hour of my life. Let me be gay; let me be sad. Let me be cold; let me be warm... Let me be truthful; let me be a liar. Let me honorable and let me sin... And when I sleep, let me dream all the time so that not one little piece of living is ever lost."

- Betty Smith
Dear Mr. X,

Here lies next to me your old copy of "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn." Last summer, I picked it off a shelf from a small bookstore in a far-off country, where it lay between books nobody in said country had probably ever heard of. 

I had read "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" the summer before then and liked it a great deal. I like to do that with books, although many consider it pointless-- if I like a book I borrowed from the library, I buy my own copy. I personally do it because I think that every book that "speaks" to me ends up becoming a part of me. A part of my history. So, I like to keep my history close by, in case I ever need a friend in the past.

The particular tiny bookstore I had found it in is located in a small, provincial shopping area, which in turn is located in a city which makes up the deepest layer (and most unfamiliar layer) of earth where I have my roots.

That summer, I had found myself in my roots very suddenly, and I was still reeling from having become so unhinged from reality as I had always known it. So when I saw "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" sitting tired and squished on the shelf, it was like I had found a friend. 

I found a bit of my own history in the place that held the history of my ancestors, yet was completely and utterly alien to me. In that moment, I felt a little less displaced and thinly spread. You unwittingly tied me back in place. 

I opened the book to the first page, and there I found your name, scrawled in ink in a penmanship that suggests forgetfulness. The "n" in your surname almost didn't make it. I realized then that although I had been tied back in place, there was a long string still floating around from you. 

Summer came and went, and I went off to another hemisphere to go to school, far away from home. I forgot about the string: I was uprooted once again. Yet this time, it was of my own accord. I ended up in the place where you and I claim our citizenship, but where I do not find my home. But I eventually made my own, thousands of miles away from any family. And it was good.

At the end of the school year a few months ago, I found myself in a strange position: I was told I would not be able to go back to my true home. This strange country that claims me as theirs was where I would have to make a new home with my family. But of course, I had no choice. 

When all of my books came, they were in one box. The history of me was in one box. 
And I rediscovered your old book. I remembered the string upon seeing your almost-doctor's signature. And I looked you up. And lo and behold, you live in a city that isn't too far from where my home is. 

Your book has come a long way. It's practically been around the globe twice, only to come back to the place where you-- and now I-- call home.

The string is tied.


July 14, 2008

One Hundred Years of Solitude

"A person doesn't die when he should but when he can."
-Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I was always terrible at Spanish, but for some reason, I decided to take it for four years, despite the fact I only needed two to fulfill graduation requirements.

My fourth year of Spanish was just awful. Because of my schedule, I had to take independent study spanish, and that's when I discovered I was an in-the-closet, bona-fide slacker. I never studied. I half-assed my homework, and my teacher knew it. 

Going to Spanish class = Walking the plank.

(At least, then it was. But I'm getting to the perspective bit.)

One day, my teacher plunked down a hardcover book in front of me. It was banana yellow.

"This is your new assignment: read it and write wooompwooomp wommmpwoooooomp."*

I read it. It was my first taste Latin American literature, and I jumped in, head first. I haven't come out since. 

Some time ago, someone was interested in why I like Marquez's writing so much. Back then, I couldn't really explain why: I actually think not being able to explain why was a part of why I liked him so much. But I think I've got it down now. 

It's taken me all summer to come to terms with myself: being uprooted and placed in a strange place that can never be my home, not sticking to plans, deciding that I'm better off without this or that, and other nonsensical personal stuff. I've been so busy pondering all the self-imposed anxieties that my summer has been mostly me reciting in my head:

Should have, could have, would have.

But where does this all lead? Needless to say, I have no sense of gratification from this. It makes me more anxious, to say the very least. Nothing. Nowhere.

I was lying on my bed a few days ago, looking up at the ceiling fan. It was making this god-awful clanking noise because I hadn't figured out how to screw whatever it was I was trying to unscrew a few days before then back in properly. As I was looking at it, something funny happened. Everything slowed down. The ceiling fan was still. 

And for some reason, I was brought to Macondo, in that moment where my ceiling fan was on but not moving. Time slowed down. Anything could happen in that moment. It was my moment. I wanted nothing more then for it to be a moment I could call my own... to drop off the face of the earth, if only for a small amount of time where my eyes were tired and played tricks on me. 

In Macondo, everything happens over several generations of Buendias living their lives. Their simple and miraculous lives. But every moment of their life is shown with such detail, such attention. It is theirs. 

Too much obligation. Too many worries. 

They had them, too. We have them, too.

But somehow, if I can figure out how to make each moment mine, and still go on with my life, it would be really nice. A bit of magical realism does everyone good. 

*I don't remember what he told me to write about because I do remember writing whatever it was at 12 AM the day it was due a few days later. So I just filled in the blank a la Charlie Brown.

July 01, 2008

Heart songs: Not just a Bibliophile.

These are my heart songs/ 
They never feel wrong/
And when I wake, for goodness sake/
These are the songs I keep singing. 

-"Heart Songs," from Weezer's Red Album
So, if you haven't guessed, I'm not just a bibliophile: I love music! WHOOO! What is that? A musicophile? Someone wikipedia it, stat. 

From the young age of seven, I was subject to weekly thirty-minute torture sessions a la piano. Let me tell you: I hated that one guy with that one gad-awful warm-up book as much as the next kid. (Someone wiki that or something, too-- I'm sure you fellow former or current piano players know exactly what I'm talking about.) 

But when I finally got to an age where I started to appreciate music and develop my own, independent tastes, I began to thank my mom for making me take lessons. It's great to be able to just have the radio on and be able to kind of know what's musically going on. (I'll never fully know because I've sworn never to take the ass-kicking music theory classes at school.)

So enough beating around the bush. In my music book, some bands have only been fleeting loves, but some have just made a lasting impression on me that's stayed with me for years and will for years to come. To me, these ten or so bands epitomize my musical world. They've stuck with me through the many ups and downs so far. They've stuck with me on the long-ass bus rides to school where the only way of surviving was to drown out the noisy middle schoolers in the back seats. They've stuck with me on even longer plane rides to the other side of the world, and they've stuck with the spirit of defiance, passion, and truth that I've come to admire in each and everyone of them. 

And just a heads-up: I really love the 90s. 


11. Queens of the Stone Age- I don't know about you, but I really love Era Vulgaris. I also love their dirty, dirty guitars and their dirty, dirty, tongue-in-cheek lyrics. I remember being really hooked on Never Say Never my junior year. I was listening to it in the car on my headphones when I was one some long car trip (on full volume, of course! Is there any other way to listen to Queens of the Stone Age?), and I remember when the chorus rolled along, my mom looked over at me from traffic and shot me the evil eye.  

I turned beet red: Oh sweet, sweet pubescent embarrassment. 

Try out the entire effing Era Vulgaris CD, their cover of Little Sister, and of course, Never Say Never

10. Fugazi- To me, they are the infinitive "to rock out." Arpeggiator? Greed? Joe #1? I love it all. 

9. Bright Eyes- You can't beat simplicity. The unabashedly angsty or emotional lyrics and rawness of the stories in their songs are an immediate hook. I particularly love The Invention of Beauty; The First Day of My Life; and It's Cool, We Can Still Be Friends. In It's Cool, you gotta love the bit about the whiskey... classic passive-aggressive anger. 

8. Neutral Milk Hotel- Oh Comely is perpetually stuck in my head. Well, just the first verse or so-- eight minutes is a bit much for my functional-group studded brain. It's all in the lyrics: transgressive undertones coupled with a magical wryness. 
Magical wryness? Er, yeah. Just listen. Try out Communist Daughter-- you gotta love that trumpet. Or pretty much the entire "In an Aeroplane Over the Sea" album. 

7. Daphne Loves Derby- One of my first pop-rock loves. It's sad to think that I go to school what? Fifteen minutes away from where they're from and I haven't been able to get my butt down to a venue to see them in concert. Catchy, catchy guitar melodies and riffs that for some reason, were always stuck in my head during math class? I love it. That, and the lead singer. Shhh! Try Closing Down the Pattern Department, Deserts Eating Oceans, Patterns and How They Change the Visible World, and of course, a Purevolume classic, Hopeless Love. Lots and lots of fluff, I know. HUSH!

6. Jimmy Eat World- I'm mostly a sucker for their big big guitars, especially on 77 Satellites and Salt Sweat Sugar. But that's not all that's good. The lyrics are great, particularly in Spangle and Authority Song. Barebones honest and bitter, just the way I like it. Very, very cathartic. 

5. America the Band- I've loved these guys since I was little, mostly thanks to my parents' mix tapes that played over and over in the effing car. I would beg my mom to skip over ABBA so I could listen to Muskrat Love. I've sung along to all of their songs so many times that me and my dad have perfected singing Sandman and Horse With No Name in harmony. It's just good old stuff from the good old days. 

Well, I assume they were, because I wasn't alive yet. But come on: when was the last time someone sang about a muskrat? 

4. The Beatles-- Of course, no list is complete without them. I mean, come on. They're the Beatles. Based on past bands, can you guess which song of theirs is my favorite? 

3. Dave Brubeck--  I've always loved jazz. I spent a good five years in a jazz band, and I loved every moment of it. Plus, he was the first guy that made me realize that piano playing could be totally kick-ass. Mr. Brubeck always is my company of choice on a quiet night in or when I'm in the library. Try Blue Rondo a la Turk, the classic Take Five, and Unsquare Dance. 

2. Weezer-- I don't even know where to begin. A few good friends of mine introduced them to me my sophomore year, and it was love. Love in the car when I first learned how to drive; love when I was on the trains; love while waiting for buses; love late at night on the sidewalk, howling El Scorcho with my buddies; love when I was pondering chem equations; love when I was just sitting in my room, doing nothing in particular. 
Just listen to everything. Really. You can't go wrong with Weezer. And if you listened to El Scorcho, you'd sing it sitting out on a sidewalk, too.

aaaaand the numero uunooooooo...

1. The Smashing Pumpkins- Summer before freshman year was spent cradling my Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness MIDI tape in my back pocket. Back when MIDIs were kickass, and way before the time of the iPod. Billy and the gang have seen me through it all: from getting on the school bus on my first day of high school to the transpacific plane ride to my first days of college. Billy himself is a tad over the top sometimes, but I've come to realize its I admire. Bold. Aggressive. Unafraid of lashback from everyone. Completely out there and a bit misunderstood, but all guts. Raw, raw guts. And it shows in the music. Classic example: X.Y.U. You can feel the tension through the speakers-- raw, undulated anger and feeling. It takes talent to make something as base and truly human come through all the whatnot of today's noisy mess. 
We Only Come Out at Night. (I always think of little Miyazaki Totoros bouncing up and down with ginko leaves in a yellow submarine when I listen to this song.)
Zero. (Definitely a classic Smashing Pumpkins song.)
Farewell and Goodnight. (I don't plan on having kids anytime soon, but I already know this is going to be their lullabye. Plus, it shows a different, but equally beautiful side of the Smashing Pumpkin's musical identity.)
The Boy. (Bouncy. I listen to this in the car all the time.)
Okay, pretty much everything. Pay particular attention to Mellon Collie, though. It's chock-full of gems.