October 23, 2014

October 22, 2014

  • Uncertain emotions

    There are days when life just feels overwhelming.  I've never felt like this before and don't know what to make of it.  This is  intriguing, if I detach myself from this.  I'm not going crazy - that much I know. Even little things like getting my condo ready for relatives visiting is distressing.

    One day at a time.  Take a deep breath.  Put everything in perspective.  Count your blessings and fortunes.  I repeat all these mantras.  Eventually the anxiety goes away.  Go out for a walk, enjoy the fall weather.  And so that's what I shall do now.


October 21, 2014

  • The dinner was good but ...

    I was devouring the noodles, fried rice and lobster when J's nephew leaned over and asked "Uncle Matt, do you know what that guy is shouting about?"  I looked up but didn't hear anyone shouting in the restaurant.  But just as I resumed eating, I could hear a man talking very loudly in Mandarin.  I had no idea what he was saying.  It was a table of 4, the man and presumably his wife who was holding on to a young child (maybe a year and a half) and a small boy of about 5.   The wife looked tired and just stared blankly ahead.  The man just kept on talking in a harsh tone.  The young boy was cute as a button but had the saddest looking eyes.  He had his chin on the table and even from my distance, I could see his eyes had watered up.

    Then an older couple joined them.  The young boy walked over to his dad and they were both looking at the menu.  I continued with my meal and didn't hear much from them.  But every so often, I glanced over.  The boy still looked sad.  The man never helped his wife look after the baby so she could eat.  The older couple seemed to be lost in their world.  The young boy ate directly from the dishes set on the table (family style).  His bowl and plate were empty.  It seemed like he had to fend for himself.

    I just hope things won't be so bad for him.  His sad eyes and predicament still bothers me.  I don't know if I should have done something.

October 14, 2014

  • Getting Forgetful

    I've been more and more forgetful lately.  My reading glasses & sunglasses disappear and reappear whenever they want.  I have no idea where they go.  But they do eventually show up but not before causing much annoyance and irritation.  I have a couple of reminder apps on my phone.  I don't think I ever used them.  The other day, I went to get a new dish towel to wipe the dishes.  After I took it out, the laundry had just finished so I put the laundry into the dryer (the linen cabinet and the washing machine are within steps of each other).  When I got back to the kitchen, I had no idea where the dish towel went.

    I'm grateful that public transit is by my doorsteps.  Because I sometimes can't find my car keys.  I have used my spare car keys more than once.  And now that I got a new TV and receiver, I have more remote controls than I know what to do with.  At least 1 of the 3 will go off on their own.  I found one of them on top of the washing machine once.  Maybe it went to look for the lost socks.

    While I try to laugh this off, this is actually starting to stress me out.  I don't want to end up like my dad in his final years of life.

October 13, 2014

  • A cluttered home, a cluttered mine

    These past few days have found me working late into the night with work and cleaning.  I have relatives coming over and one of them is staying at my condo.  I like them which eases the pain but my condo seems to be in a state of perpetual mess. I just never seem to have time to fix and clean up my place.  My siblings worship at the temple of Martha Stewart.  Everything is prim and proper.  They have the Thanksgiving decorations up.  My brother tells me his wife will sometimes wake up early in the morning to redecorate because she just thought of something interesting.  We're talking 3 AM in the morning.

    So far, I've thrown out a bunch of stuff that I don't need - everything from old food containers, jars, magazines, receipts and stuff.  I have several boxes of invoices, statements etc.. that I need to file.  I think I inherited this need to save stuff (I can't use the term hoarding yet) from my parents.  To them, everything that could be reused  was saved.  My sister has spent the past few months clearing the stuff from the house.  She would text or call me with another "interesting" thing she found from decades ago.  "Why would our parents keep this stuff?".  Hopefully my place won't look so bad when my relatives come.

    An update from my previous entry.  I suspect a lot of this is stress related.  No matter how much I plan out my day, we get a lot of last minute request.  It has to go out to the client asap.  So I have to drop everything.  We're just a small team and everyone has more our fair share of work.  Budget cuts have not helped.  I still work 2 to 4 hours each evening and part of my weekend.  It's not a great life.  Maybe I have this phobia of change.  Or inertia is a more powerful force than I realize.

September 22, 2014

  • Lost

    Despite promising myself I need to change and do things that I want to do, I'm still stuck in a job that pays the bills but does nothing else for my soul.  The trips to the gym have become a bit sporadic.  My brain sometimes sleeps during the day and becomes active at night when I need it to sleep.  Its weird, sometimes I'll be changing channels and it'll stop on some show with someone going on about doing what you love.  Another day, I suddenly remembered this travel outfit that I had checked out years ago for camping and hiking trips up way up north.  Then my sister told me about a story she heard from one of our aunts.  Her brother in law had worked so hard for his company.  It was some sort of special project and he busted his balls.  When it was over, they simply let him go.  He passed away a few months after that leaving 4 young kids.  I remember my mom telling me that story many years ago.  There've been so many signs.

    I guess I wasn't doing anything about it.  So life decided to give me a slap in the face.  After dinner on the weekend with J, I asked him to drive me to the hospital.  I wasn't feeling well.  The guy at the emergency did a quick assessment and in about 15 mins, I was admitted.  The guy behind me was bleeding from a cut in his face.  There were others that looked like they've been there for hours.  I felt a bit guilty getting ahead of them.

    I was there for maybe an hour and a bit.  I only took one picture with my phone.  Sorry - no selfies. The doctor kept me awhile to make sure I was ok once I got fixed me up.  I'm fine now.   I guess I need to take care of myself and enjoy life.

    You folks doing ok?

    ER bed

    ER bed


September 11, 2014

  • The good ol' spatula

    t's funny how memories work.  I was doing the dishes and rinsing out my spatula.  Then I remember my mom making coconut cream pie.  It wasn't anything fancy.  I think everything was from a box.  But she added vanilla extract, orange rinds etc... to make it a bit more interesting.  After she finished, I would make sure I was first in line to lick the bowls, spoons and even the mixer blades.  If my siblings were there, she had to figure out how to divvy everything up fairly.

    Then one day, instead of using a wooden spoon, she used a spatula.  I marveled at how efficient it was.  This must be a work of a genius.  When she was done, there wasn't much anything to lick.  Even the mixer blades were pretty clean.  The 3 of us fought for those scraps like hungry hyenas.  Clearly this spatula was an invention of some sick person who didn't like children.  I think the next time she made pie, she didn't scrape the bowl that cleanly anymore.  Peace was restored.


August 28, 2014

  • Run River North

    This entry started about a month ago. I finally got around to finishing it.  Work got in the way - what can I say.

    I watched Run River North perform at the Drake Underground on July 23rd. It’s rare treat for me to go out on a work night since I work most evenings. I’ve been following this L.A. based band when they were originally called Monsters Calling Home. This young Korean American band caught my attention with their intricate harmonies and compelling songs. The show was sold out although the room wasn’t that full.

    The opening act was The Lighthouse and the Whaler from Cleveland, Ohio. They had an interesting folk, pop sound that was catchy. One of the band members played a mandolin and glockenspiel. It didn’t take long for the crowd to start (well - at least the people around me), started to moving to their music. It’s tough being the opening act but they handled it with grace - giving their tour mates a compliment and earning a nice round of applause at the end. I enjoyed their music and picked up their CD at the of the night.

    After they finished their set, they packed up their gear and Run River North started to set up their gear. It was interesting seeing musicians doing this on their own after watching other big rock acts having roadies doing all of that. After a brief sound check, they went offstage for a couple minutes. Once they returned, they started their set with In the Water followed by their signature song, Monsters Calling Home which got the crowd going. If they were nervous or tired, they didn’t show it.

    Here are my impressions of a few of their songs: (in no particular order)
    Foxbeard was beautifully executed.  It had a slow, gentle start with Alex Hwang's and Sally Kang’s vocal guiding the song, backed with beautiful harmonies and the steady drumming of John Chong.  It was a favorite of mine when they first revealed it on YouTube.  I thought the version on their CD was a bit too restrained but their live performance was really well done.

    Run River Run - Alex explained that River was the daughter of a friend. She had a tumour in her neck and the song is about her.   Alex quickly reassured everyone that everything turned out well.  He added that people would be depressed about the song when he forgot to tell them about the happy ending.

    Mr. Brightside (cover of the Killers) was sung to a hushed room. It was just Alex and his guitar with the others joining at the end. It was beautifully done.

    Lying Beast:  was another song with a soft, quiet beginning that morphed into an extended super charged jam session. It was just so much fun watching them stretch their wings.  They gradually guided the song back to a soft ending with their sweet harmony.

    Banner:  a solemn response to the hateful message from the Westboro Baptist Church.  Don't use hate to fight hate.

    Growing Up:  Another favorite of mine (and others) with beautiful and haunting lyrics (see below).

    "I used to close my eyes
    To what stirred under my bed,
    Now they're open wide
    To the monsters in my bed.

    Instead of claws, they whisper lies
    Sinking fear in quiet steps,
    So I will fight in the light
    'Til I give my final breath."

    Rain was another gentle, quiet song that is only on their vinyl record. A version is on the original Monsters Calling Home EP.  Alex gave a plug to the audience to buy their vinyl because the sound is better.  The audience must have listened because they sold out of their vinyl record.

    Fight to Keep was the second song of their encore.  It was fun, rousing & energetic with Alex going into the audience for a good part of the song. This was definitely a highpoint and sent everyone home wanting for more.

    RRN seems to be more comfortable with themselves and flexing some newly found muscles. The long road trip probably helped them develop a very competent stage presence.  They gave a polished, energetic & highly entertaining performance.   I think they are on the cusp of something even bigger.  I hope they'll come back again.  If you get a chance to catch them, do so.  You won't be disappointed.

    Run River North are:  Alex Hwang (lead vocals, guitars), Daniel Chae (vocals, strings), Jennifer Rim (strings), Joe Chun (bass, vocals), John Chong (drums, vocals) and Sally Kang (vocals, keyboards).

    See more at: http://www.nettwerk.com/artist/run-river-north#sthash.qMUj5bzR.dpuf

    On a side note, I wish the lighting at the venue was better.  It was dark on stage right where Daniel Chae hung out most of the night.  At least the sound was decent.  I had forgotten how much I enjoy watching live music and it reminded me of simpler times.  I need to reconnect with this part of me.

    Alex Hwang

    Alex Hwang

    Joe Chun, John Chong and Alex Hwang

    Joe Chun, John Chong and Alex Hwang

    Daniel Chae, Joe Chun and Alex Hwang

    Daniel Chae, Joe Chun and Alex Hwang

    John Chong

    John Chong

    Sally Kang and Jennifer Rim

    Sally Kang and Jennifer Rim

July 15, 2014

  • Sometimes My Brain Stops Working

    I think my brain stops working sometimes.  It's as if my body is moving but there's no one home.  Here are a few recent examples.

    1. I went downstairs from my condo to get my mail. When I got back, I couldn't open my door.  I kept turning the lever but door won't open.  Then my brain started to come alive.  Maybe I should just unlock the door using the key I was holding in my hand.

    2.  When I watch TV and change channels during the commercials, I rarely remember what I was watching originally.  So I end up watching something else.   Sometimes I'll stumble back to the  the show I was watching originally as I'm flipping through the channels again.  Now I rarely change channels (especially when I'm watching Walking Dead).

    3.  I will soon resort to tying my reading glasses to my "thing".  It's the only way for me not to lose my reading glasses.  But I know I'll end up tying my remote controls, wallet etc... to it.  Hmm... I wonder if that will stretch my "thing"?

    4. If I don't write down when I put something in the oven, I will never remember it.  I have a timer on my iPhone but keep forgetting to check it.

    5.  Don't even ask me about passwords.  I can remember my ATM password, a few of my online passwords and believe it or not, my student number from university.  As for the rest, I think I will have to write them down on my "thing".

    6.  I was doing laundry and noticed I didn't have enough for a full load.  It was towards the end of the day so I figured I would just toss in what I was wearing.  Then I realized the blinds were up.  I ran to my bedroom to put on some clothes.   It's a good thing I haven't attached my glasses and remote controls to my "thing" yet.

    I need some brain pills.


July 8, 2014

  • The Forgotten Ones

    A few months ago, I was on the street car when this Chinese woman got on.  She was probably in her late 50s to early 60s.  Even though it was spring, she still wore a long winter jacket.  I watched as she made her way down the streetcar.  People parted and let her through the narrow aisle.  She sat down in seat in front of me.  Her graying hair was coarse and unruly.  She started to talk to herself in Cantonese.  I couldn't really make out what she was saying except I knew she was upset.  People stared at her.

    I felt sorry for her and didn't know what to do. I think she knew people were watching her but she couldn't help it.  She grew quiet and then would start again.  She stared out the window and continued her solitary conversation.  I wonder if heart ever felt happiness and contentment.  Did she have enough to eat?  Did she have enough to get by?  I departed at my stop but her image still haunts me and every so often she pries her way back into my consciousness.  It was another recent incident that made me think of her.

    I was walking to the grocery store the and noticed all the traffic beside me was stopped.  I was curious what was causing the standstill.  Up ahead a street car was stopped at a streetcar stop and the doors were opened.  But no one was entering or leaving.  Eventually an elderly man was helped down by another man.  As they walked towards the sidewalk, I could hear the younger man say "Do you need to go to the hospital?  You almost passed out."   The younger man waved at the streetcar driver and the streetcar moved on.

    The elderly man was average height, skinny and unshaven.  His clothes were old and well worn.  "Do you want an ambulance?" the younger man asked as he led the elderly man into the streetcar shelter.  I walked past them, paused and looked back.  "Just sit here and I'll call an ambulance for you."  I asked the guy if he needed to call 911.  He said yes and asked if I had a phone.  I nodded and called 911.  The other guy said he had to leave.  I didn't really want to be alone with this elderly guy.  But the 911 operator stayed on the phone with me until the ambulance came.  The guy didn't pass out. But he stood up despite me telling him to sit down.  He reached into his pants and said he had to pee.  I cringed.  People were walking by, no one had a clue what was going on.  He peed in his pants and left a puddle by his feet.  It slowly trickled down to the road.

    He kept asking me if the ambulance was coming.  I told him it was just a short distance away.  I didn't smell any alcohol on his breath.  But he wasn't alert.  To my relief, the ambulance came within 5 minutes.  I told the paramedic what I knew and warned them about the urine.  She smiled and said they'll look after him.  Nothing fazes these guys.

    I don't know why I wrote about these two people.  They are part of forgotten ones in our city.  We avoid them if possible (I sometimes do).  But deep down inside, I fear, bizarre as it may sound, I'll become one of them.