Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Bed Stuy II

Before I finish my story from last time, I have to start another story. The local convience store that I have mentioned previously is my favorite. Beyond being about twenty feet closer, it was spaced out so that you did not feel like the shelves were collapsing around you.
It however was not exactly tailored to Allison and I's comsmpolitan tastes, more specifically, its milk selection was appaling. They sometimes carried one or two percent milk by the carton, but even that was rare. Usually they had about ten or more huge jugs of whole milk.
I simply cannot drink whole milk, its cruel (that was a joke, but hard to write). Rather to the point, it tastes like I am drinking butter and I generally find it gross. So on a whim I asked them why they don't carry it.
"Because no one will buy it. It will sit there for two weeks and then we will have to throw it away." The workers there were all nice there.
I replied, "well I promise you that you can sell at least one bottle a week." At the time they probably could honestly have sold more, and I mean just for Allison and I. I have a significant passion for cereal. Its usually the first thing I miss when I am abroad (sorry mom). Cereal has the amazing American quality of being 80% marketing, 18% packaging, and then the actual substance that people in theory pay for, are chunks of wheat. Also, one of my earliest memories was destroying the kitchen in attempt to make cereal by myself for the first time.
Alliison, however, is probably an even greater consumer of milk. She is a predator of milk. One of the sheer absurdities in my new living situation was getting to watch my girlfriend carefully fill an Evian bottle with mlik for the day.
To sum up a long point, we go through a lot of milk. So I felt comfortable saying that we could support their 2 percent purchasers (I would have gone to skim but one step at a time).
The store workers promise to bring in 2%. After a couple of weeks of us checking in, they actually do start carrying it and we start buying it every week.
One Sunday afternoon recently I wanted to play basketball. A court is one of the first things I look for anywhere I move. There was a court only about two blocks away and when I got there it was empty. I played for a while when a large group of guys show up to play.
One of the guys was the person who threatened me, at the time, only about three days earlier. He did not have much of an opportunity to be really mean to me. His friend Q greeted me warmly, and the guy seemed to have enough respect for Q that he just said whatever.
In the end, we ended up playing basketball for a few hours. I didn't exactly school anyone, but I was not a liability to my team. I have been playing there for a while. I have learned to never go into the paint unless you can make a shot while getting fouled. Also, don't call a foul unless you can't get up or you are ready for a game-paralyzing argument.
To this day the guy has been nice to me, and his friends far more so. I ended up with the name Larry Bird, because Q is decisively old school. For the last month they have greeted me warmly.
Why the bit about the convenience store? Right after the game Allison and I went there to get milk. They have all kinds of varieties now. I asked them if they were selling. They all burst out with smiles, apparently the milk has been selling like crazy. Multiple people have asked why they did not carry other kinds earlier.
The community we are in is changing, but I think our understanding of it is changing as well. A new wine store opened, we are making friends out of neighbors and it has been very positive. Also I am getting far better at basketball.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Dreams and Batman

I get a lot of questions about this blog, enough to take it as a compliment. I am due to put part two of my Bed Stuy story up here. Its half done and I just keep not finishing it, partially because I am busy, but partially because I just hate it. Its hard to justify writing that is not as good as the writing that someone could be reading. This is the bane of every failed writer and forgotten by every failing writer. Writing entails a certain amount of reverence to what you are putting down. It has the ability to reach people beyond the direct listeners. A great writer often has almost no conception of it, burns their poetry, or is so miserable they cannot look up and around.

The problem is that now that I admit all of this, a blog is just less fun. Not to insult the shockingly broad base of my readership (every time I stop posting I get talked to by the usual suspects but I get at least a few people I would have never expected). I take that as a compliment, but its hard to justify writing all of this out when I could tell most of you the same story. And I am generally better at telling.

However last night I had a really cool dream where I read a book...

Tangent: When I was a kid there was a very good cartoon series of Batman. It was remarkably well done. There was an episode where Scarecrow kept attacking Batman in his dreams.. The big question was whether Batman could essentially make his dream lucid enough to take control and fight back. Batman was able to do so when he saw a library. He rushed and grabbed a book. Turning to the first page, the letters on the page just melted off essentially. Batman knew from this that he was in a dream, he became lucid, and then won the battle by controlling the dream. Later, reminiscing his brilliance with Robin, Batman said that he knew to grab the book, because you cannot read in a dream. I have more or less believed that since that damn cartoon, at least in the sense of believing something openly is the easiest way to test its truth. So I often asserted that fact and then waited to see if people disagreed. I typically sourced the cartoon show to make sure I was not spreading lies. However one odd thing I found: I surprisingly got a lot of people who said back "You got that from Batman didn't you?" Apparently that cartoon was spreading lies all over. That was definitely the worst show of a very good series. I am also glad that I have probably now captured a top ten Google result for "Batman dreams."

The book was more or less for kids. It had pictures on the margin. As it came to a climax the text was done in columns instead of one solid block. Then the margins would stager back and forth. It became hard to read both because it was so enthralling but also because of the way it was written. To dash yet more pop culture references unique to my generation: It was remarkably similar to Tenacious D's Tribute. This too is but a tribute to the greatest kids book in the world (that said, at the time it definitely registered into my brain as clear text read like a book); I also know a volcano was involved. A volcano pretty much has to be involved for a book to be the greatest book in the world.

The dream book sort of inspired me to write more stuff in here. An ironic result since it could have just as easily highlighted how silly most of the things I write really are. Instead, I will try to put Bed-stuy up. And I can tell you about Batman and dreams. I may not interest anyone, but at least I will stop getting random demands to put up an entry: no one will read the blog in the first place.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Life in Bed-Stuy I

This should be part one in a few articles on our new home that are long over due. For those of you who don't know, I moved in with my girlfriend Allison into a brownstone apartment in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. We had been looking for a place in Brooklyn because she works here, and I wanted to get a bigger place for a similar price as what I was paying in Manhattan. Thanks to Allison's efforts we got a great place in the heart of Bed-Stuy.

Actually, heart is not really the best term, more like a lower artery. We are in a portion of Bed-stuy which is getting revitalized. Gentrification is not exactly the right term, at least considering its implied meanings, because the area is changing economically, but it is not changing much ethically. There are white people, but they are not common, however people with money is generally increasing.

This means that there are a few new restaurants in our neighborhood, but not many. We rely heavily on three or four. Going a few blocks any direction and the area is not being revitalized, although it is surely no where near as bad as it was in the early-90s.

Overall the area has been great to me, however there is little question that we stand out. Allison and I are used to being the white people in Taiwan, so by comparison, it is not that bad. People are very friendly in general, more so than anywhere I have lived. If I see someone on the street, "Good morning" or "Good evening" is common. However, if I walk with a large group of white friends, say five or six, we get nothing be awkward looks.

The first time I had walked Fulton street, the main commercial area near by, I felt like I was abroad. Predominately the area has huge $1 stores, discount clothing stores, pawn shops, a lot of laundry places, and sweltering hot take-out restaurants. I walked up the majority of the street trying to figure out how the very different economic entities were interacting. Only a couple of pockets were completely franchise dominated like most middle-American towns. My own town, Longmont Colorado, now has every big box store and middle-to-upper-middle class eatery out there (Noodles and Company, Outback Steak House, etc). The closest to that near here has been Applebee's. However fast food is prevalent on Fulton.

Until recently, the only tension I or a friend had was a bunch of my friends who were visiting me were told to "get out of this hood." I don't know the details of the story, but it seemed positive that nothing larger than that had happened since moving in.

This was until about two weeks ago. It was the morning and I walked to the local grocery store about two weeks ago. In front of it was a fat man with an unkept beard and clothes. He asked me for a dollar when I came out.

It was a bit early so my mind was not completely fast, but I just sort of dismissed it with "Sorry, man." I have no problems giving to the community, but if this guy hung out in front of my favorite grocery store, I could be adding a lot of pressure to give in the future. Moreover, he did not appear all that old or otherwise incapable of work. Saying "man" was just stupid. It slipped out because I was trying to be somewhat friendly.

Later that day I was walking with Allison to a nearby pizza place. I pass the guy and gets up into my face and starts yelling at me, with a bunch of his friends behind both of us. He says "Hey, _man_, how are you now? Huh?"

I answer, "umm, I am okay." And we keep walking.

Behind me he keeps shouting, "yeah, hold her hand and keep walking." And then he said something about my mother, and something about "milky" which I think was in reference to Allison (who is not of the darkest complexion). There was more in there, some more threatening, and a lot more overemphasized uses of "man."

I was frustrated by the incident, but there was no reason to make this guy hate me any more, especially if he hangs out nearby and was with a group of friends. I just try to dismiss it, but it was hard not to be angry about someone who clearly lived nearby who might be a threat to Allison or me.

On the way home, he passed again. He recognized me, and said lowly, "get home safe..." We actually were on the way to the same grocery store as before. As we are in there, he comes back in. While Allison is talking about paper towels I can't stop listening to him. It becomes clear he is a drug dealer, great, I have the local drug dealer hating me.

He does not see me again while we are in there. But I end up seeing him again this weekend. However, I am writing this in multiple parts to keep me writing. So I will leave it there for now.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Old photos

There is a lot I miss about Taiwan. Flipping through old photos, it was weird to relive frustrations and recall people. When you take a thousand photos a second, going through them can be a very odd experience. Reliving whole days in minutes.

Some of the people don't seem far at all, this was of course only a year ago. However, my life is so different. I still make the trivial into huge problems. I still worry about the daily drama and the daily annoyances.

I would probably not move back to Taiwan, but the thought crosses my mind. The whole idea of living in Asia is weird. I like the challenge. I like the language. I like the foreignness, but there are so many things to not like.

This entry is more to put something on the blog to inspire to put up more. For those who complain about the lack of new entries, there are probably only two people on this planet who have read the entire series of articles from China. This is not a recommendation to do so, I am just saying, this site is not lacking in material.

I will try to put up more, more about my new life here in this summer and, mercifully, post 1L. I live in Bed Stuy, I live with my girlfriend, we buy furniture, I like my job, and I don't especially want my grades. This life has been good. My life in Taiwan was good. They just seem so different.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

A class three cavity: "Awesome."

A class three cavity: "Awesome."
So I went to the dentist this morning because my parents have begged me. They have apparently more cavities than teeth between them, as went the apocalyptic scenario painted for me.
So, after getting lost, and confused, I got to my appointment at 9:00 in the morning, absolutely exhausted.
The check-in woman, who was rude in ways I didn't know were really necessary for her position, clearly was concerned about where her lips ended and her face began. That is the only reason I could picture her deciding that the edges of her lips should be lined three shades darker than any other part of her face. However, it clearly worked, there was no question asking as to do with where her lips were.
After a wait I got a very pleasant dentist. She was originally from India, and had a lovely trace of an accent. She was very kind, and set me up for x-rays.
We talked for a while, and the appointment was going lovely. She took x-rays and I waited for my cleaning.
While I waited for her, I noticed that she was talking to someone in the hallway. They were using a great deal of technical jargon, and it all sounded a touch serious.
The person looking after me was looking at my x-rays and said that I might have a cavity. Oh shit I thought, well I guess my parents were right. But, what did I expect, I did not floss and it had been some two years since my last appointment, its going to happen.
Then a blond woman, who I realized was the girl from the hall came in. She told me I had a lesion in my tooth and it would only get worse. To preface the following, I am really bad at writing, or even recreating dialogue; however, I am fairly sure how this was actually presented to me:
"You have a class III lesion. This Sunday I am going to be taking my dentist exam, and that is the exact thing I needed."
"What?"
"I need a patient to perform on for the medical boards to get my license."
At this point my brain went dead, as I had mailed my mom, jokingly "Did you know that this was a student dentist office when you signed me up?"
When I came back mentally, this woman was all but begging me. Apparently, my problem being the exact thing she needed was somewhat rare. The following words were used in relation to my teeth having decayed: fortunate, amazing, and my personal favorite, fate.
My question: "wait, what the hell is a class III cavity? That sounds terrible."
"It just means that you have a cavity on your back teeth, that is a class III cavity. II is on the sides of your teeth, and I is in the front."
She said it would be free, and I would get paid, but moreover, it would mean the world to her. Clearly it did. I hold myself out as someone who would help anyone. Moreover, my main "dentist" assured me that there is no way that she would do less than a perfect job, as this was her big deal and she would be overlooked by a national dentist for the board review.
In retrospect, couldn't a hobo be perfect for this?
At one point, another junior doctor came in, and he was clearly baffled at the
fortune falling from the sky. He looked at the x-ray and said "Oh, this is awesome!"
That was the first time I really wanted to punch a man in a hospital.
And then he said "If he had contact on the category I he would be perfect." Two thoughts: screw you buddy, and, contact?
A real dentist finally comes in. He looks over the charts and says "well, 18 would be good, but 19 might be better." I am enough of a knower to know that those numbers meant my respective teeth.
"Yeah, but 8 would be perfect." Replied one of the people in the room. As I looked around I realized that there were now six people in the room. It reminded me of the first time I got my hair cut in Taiwan and a crowd developed to watch my foreigner hair get cut.
"Sure, but the 7 and 8 don't have contact. They probably won't approve it if you don't have contact."
"What about 16?"
"Its good, but not as good as 19, 16 is just starting."
This conversation went on until I drew the line and said "Would someone please tell me what is wrong with my teeth?"
They were selecting which cavity would be best for use in front of the board, apparently, there were options.
"Wait, so, how many cavities I have?"
"Do you mean number of teeth, or number of fillings you will need?" The dentist replied, looking somewhat perturbed at my question.
I thought, you are the damn doctor, count them however they do it in the trade! Apparently reading that thought he said "the cavities are between the teeth..."

PSA: Floss

"...the cavities are between the teeth, so you can count the number of teeth affected or the number of fillings
"Uhh...fillings I guess."
Numbers, so many numbers...He counted up the different pairings, looked at it all and then went "It looks like 1, 2, 3...4...6...7"
So apparently, depending on how you look at it, I have seven cavities. A brief email draft:

Dear Mom and Dad,

You have meant a lot to me. However, you are of a previous generation. And like all great children, I must surpass you.

Love, Your Boy

Even better news is that this dental board is at 7:30 in the morning this coming Sunday. I actually thought it would be a good contracts exam question, but I won't go into that.
So on Sunday, I will have one of my seven cavities fixed. After that, I have an appointment in March to start filling others.
Here is the best part. Turns out that I have so many great cavities, I could basically just go down to the lobby of the dentist review boards and be a sub-in. I have so many attractive cavities.
Finally, I am no longer just potential, I am, "awesome."

PS - this blog sucks for describing just how bad and ludicrous the whole thing was. I have lost all my blogging edge, but let me point out some of the great facts that did not even get in: in addition to the set of six people in my room at a given time, I realized later when I looked up that there were still six people, but three of them were different; the Indian girl was the first person to treat me like a human being towards the end and essentially said, "Oh god, don't worry, you could just not come back, or come to a dentist, ever again. And stop brushing your teeth, just feel better;" at one point I asked how bad it was, referring to my teeth, and got back an answer referring to the dentist board.

And could someone please confirm or deny the last two sentences from this Yahoo Answers quote. It was in reference to the cost of cavity filling:

"ou have to call around. I called the dentist my mom goes to, and they wanted like 250 bucks! they said it was because I was a 'new patient' and they jacked the price up. I then called my friends dentist, and they told me 100 bucks. And that was with xrays! Just don't go to a dental school, they will 'invent' problems and mess your teeth up. Believe me, I used to work at a University with a dental school."

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Life tapped out

Life tapped out
On keyboards
and from veins

up on cane
Dancing for whordes
clout

is known
for poppers and
staffers

the cont(a)[in]g(iousness)[ency] of lepers
Shak(e)[i]n[g] hand
nothing shown

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

One-way mirror

I am now sending out job applications for my summer. Being that Matthew Warner gets this site, and makes it pretty obvious that I am an NYU law student, I know some firms will read this. To be honest, a lot of sentimental stuff got cut because of this very weird specter of restraint.

For me, this blog has always been a one-way mirror. I use it when I am somewhat lonely or detached. I use it to look at how I feel in a harsher light. A light mostly coming back to me, but a lot of it going through the mirror. However, historically I knew the other side were all loved ones. It was easy to be honest because they, as their role in my life would sort of entail, would understand.

Thus, if I had an entry on how I hated where I lived or what I was doing, it was understood that it was a temporal thing. I love New York, but man there were some times where I could have whipped a blog on the opposite. I would not worry about permanence, because thats the nature of a blog where most of the readers are friends and family, they are going to come back.

Now I get all kinds of weird hits. Which is cool, but its not like I am doing anything with them. I have long had some quasi-friends who checked the site based on my writing (at least this is what I was told/took to heart/wanted to take to heart/inferred/fabricated), and I always took that as a pretty decent compliment. The big question mark comes in when someone that will actually judge me will look at the site. And they will see the first entry, and that will be me.

Easily my favorite blog, or, sigh, "vlog" is The Show by Zefrank. I am now watching from the first episode forward and the latest episodes bank, and am about to meet in the "twain."

The reason I like it is manifold, but one is that he has no fear about presenting his personality in reasonable chunks. He has shows where he is just depressed. Shows where he is hung over. Shows where he sings most of the episode. Shows where he does nothing "intellectual." His show is not for new viewers, and he makes that clear. It creates a niche, and a sense of familiarity. An ability to be apart of something "in."

The problem with applying for jobs is I don't want to leave anyone "out." If I have an entry where I am angry and hung over (an entry started, and abandoned, on New Year's Day), then there is a chance that that is who I am when a firm comes google knocking.

This is a whole lot of build up to say, I hate networking.

This may destine me to being a sad commentary, but I think my business skills will always be limited by my unwillingness to network.

The thing is, I love to talk, I love to meet people. The fact is, I might not hate the concept nearly as much as I hate the verb. Why if I compliment someone's aspirations, or earrings, am I networking? Its all about context, and I can't control that context. The concept in isolation is a desire to connect, if fleetingly so, with other human beings. I like this because it reminds us that we project an image, and that image has some good parts. I don't talk to people I think are jerks, but I will gladly talk to someone who seems to care about people.

Usually, people like that. But now, if I talk to a certain set of people, the game is networking, not connecting. Visually those two things are the same but culturally they are worlds away.

In a career finding thing I read, "70-80% of jobs are obtained through network." I have so many problems with that "fact" I don't know where to begin. Notably, how was it derived and what do they mean by networking?

Do they mean what those creepy business school kids do? Like when they hand me cards when I have not met them and shake hands like the harder they squeeze the more I will like them? [Sigh: I don't mean to say all business school kids are creepy, but some are, these are the ones I am talking about...please hire me].

So now I am pandering to firms I have not even sent out things to. I say pander because I am pulling punches. Worst of all, most of the punches are directed at myself, but the game is presenting only your best. If its me and 5 applications I am fine with being the only one with a personality, but not if that personality comes off frail and self-depricating or pretentious and angry.

The worst part about this specter on the other side of my one-way mirror is that I have no idea what it looks like. I am going to try and cast a wide net, but I don't know enough about these firms. I sent out my first job application today and, well, I messed up big (lets not go into how, it was just dumb). The problem: I am new at this. I feel like I am joining a conversation with a faked cough or I am hitting on a girl who is clearly already on a date.

I tell myself that I want to find a firm with a personality, and one that can laugh at itself. One that is driven, but not one that drives its associates into the ground. In other words, somewhere where I actually want to work. But as a 1L, my search is limited by my incredible ignorance of these firms and a table generally slanted against me. If I win the grades lottery, that will help, but I don't need more stress on my grades than my own fear of failure has already put on them.

And on that note of fear of failure, wouldn't you want to hire me to do massive multi-national contract deals?