Life Made Simple

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I've never felt my age. What the fuck do I mean by that? When I turned 21, I thought to myself, "I don't feel 21. I don't even know what a 21-year old feels like." (Yeah, I've never made out with a 21-year old). Then everyone told me wait till you're 30. Everything goes down hill when you're 30. Your metabolism plummets. You get fat. Your body starts to fall apart. Your sex drive wilts and fades away. You'll need Viagra just to get it up enough to pee.

So when I turned 30, I had waited for my arms to fall off, my penis to drop onto the floor, and my testicles to hang below my knees. Thankfully, none of those things happened. My weight remained the same, my eyesight got better because I got LASIK (so not a good example), and luckily for me, my attitude toward life only grew more passionate, focused.

But, as I get older, I find myself reflecting more on life and what works for me. So many of the things I had worried about have no meaning anymore—whether people like me or not, societal norms, keeping up with the Joneses, and my hairy chest. OK. I'm Asian, so no hair on my chest.

What I strive for is simplicity. Not that I don't want children, for example, but that enjoying the simple things in life is important.

I just came back from a trip to Mono Lake in Yosemite National Park in the Eastern Sierras. Tufa—limestone rock formations—surrounds the lake and many seem to float on the water. These limestone structures give photographers fantastic opportunities for pictures. The tufa also resemble the landscape in one of the provinces that I've described in my book, albeit smaller in scale. Here's a lakeside panoramic:

The main reason I went on this trip with a group of people I barely knew was to see the Milky Way (not the chocolate candy bar). When I was at 5th-grade camp, one of my fondest memories had been the band of stars that crossed the night sky. Many years has passed since. And when I saw a picture of what the night sky looked like without light pollution, I had realized what I was looking at so long ago.

Our camp site in Yosemite was about two and a half hours from Mono Lake. It took us about an hour longer than planned due to a fatal car accident on Highway 120. After the police let traffic through, we had made several stops to other lakes and view points before getting dinner and making our way to Mono Lake. We arrived around 8:00 PM.

Our tires crunched the gravel like a mill, the stink of the bathrooms swirled across the parking lot, and the promise of an unmolested night sky came with the sun's silent descent behind the far off mountains and a closed moon. In my book, the people use the term closed moon to mean new moon or moonless night. To reach the shore, we had to wade through tufa formations that were surrounded by endless fields of green shrubbery that seemed to hold the threat of a waiting predator, a wolf hungry for its next meal. Wade is a strong word since there was a paved path to the beach, but my imagination always runs wild when I'm in an unfamiliar dark area. 

Once we weathered the imagined threat, we settled on the beach and several of the photographers set up their cameras. It took another hour before the light of the sun had completely disappeared, and for me, it took another half hour before my eyes had gotten used to the complete darkness. And slowly, like an invisible curtain being raised in a darkened theater, the night sky opened and revealed one of the grandest sights I'd ever seen:

This night sky is always available to us, but as I have said earlier, light pollution shrouds most of the stars, giving us only a preview of what we can see with our nekked eyes. What I didn't expect was how captivated I had become. My eyes kept rolling back and forth, as I tried to marvel at the significance of the Milky Way's arm stretching across the heavens. The picture above is a little misleading because the band of stars is faint. But the camera was able to capture enough light over a 30-second period to illuminate what my eyes couldn't. So for the next two hours, I stood, gawking in awe, straining to see more, unaware of the ache growing in the back of my neck. 

My need to appreciate nature has been growing. When I lived in Hawaii for three months—no matter what, barring weather—my day had to consist of four things: laying on the beach, swimming, watching the sun set, and writing. I had never been like this before, or at least I hadn't been aware of it, and wondered if I was being antisocial.

Earlier in the day, I had gone off on my own down a mountain side so I could get a better view of a waterfall. Suddenly, I found myself staring at the fall, losing myself in the moment and not wanting to rejoin the group, until they yelled at me. 

At Mono Lake, several of the photographers were experimenting with light painting. Basically, someone stands in front of the camera, another uses a flashlight, and the camera captures only what the flashlight illuminates, which is a neat effect since the camera was set for 30-seconds of exposure.

The stray lights threatened to take some of my night vision away. So I slowly backed closer to the water's edge, away from everyone, so I could continue to gaze at the arm of our home galaxy. I started to wonder if I actually hate people because I spend so much time writing, I don't speak to a lot of them.

Self doubt seeped into my mind, accusing me of being antisocial. But that's just self doubt. It's sorta like Big Foot. People think it's real. There seems to be a lot of evidence pointing to it. But so far, all that evidence proves nothing. Right? Again, self doubt seeped into my mind. Gallery of me being anitsocial or enjoying the simple things:

The next day, I read a quote of the week from self help author, Michael Neill:

"There is a line from the Greek poet Archilochus which is generally translated as:

The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.

While foxes might be cunning and able to devise hundreds of strategies for catching unsuspecting hedgehogs off guard and eating them for dinner, the hedgehog has only one defensive strategy - to curl up in a ball, spiky spines exposed, and wait until the fox (or other predator) gives up and goes away."

Michael talks about Jim Collins' book, Good to Great, that shares the following differences between foxes and hedgehogs as they relate to how people relate to life:

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"Foxes pursue many ends at the same time and see the world in all its complexity. They are 'scattered or diffused, moving on many levels,' says [the essayist Isaiah] Berlin, never integrating their thinking into one overall concept or unifying vision. Hedgehogs, on the other hand, simplify a complex world into a single organizing idea, a basic principle or concept that unifies and guides everything. It doesn't matter how complex the world, a hedgehog reduces all challenges and dilemmas to simple—indeed almost simplistic—hedgehog ideas. For a hedgehog, anything that does not somehow relate to the hedgehog idea holds no relevance...

To be clear, hedgehogs are not stupid. Quite the contrary. They understand that the essence of profound insight is simplicity. What could be more simple than e = mc2. What could be simpler than the idea of the unconscious organized into an id, ego, or superego? What could be more elegant than Adam Smith's pin factory and "invisible hand"? No, the hedgehogs aren't simpletons; they have a piercing insight that allows them to see through complexity and discern underlying patterns. Hedgehogs see what is essential, and ignore the rest."

So what does all this mean? That I'm more awesome than other people? That would be a No. Simply put, I seem to be moving toward the life I've always wanted to live: be an artist, be healthy, and having fun, while ignoring everything else that doesn't pertain to my life.

Short Story Long

I hate this saying: At the end of the day...

Sorry people. There are many end of the days, and then something miraculous happens. A new one comes along. It's the nature of our world.

urbandictionary.com defines 'At the end of the day': A saying mostly used by people trying to prove points without having any other intelligent way of expressing it.

In other words, idiots.

But it does emphasize a conclusion of sorts. What do we want at the end of what we are looking for? What we looked for. DUH! But wait!

 Oh no...I forgot the milk

Oh no...I forgot the milk

There's a popular folktale about a businessman who meets a fisherman in a small village. The fisherman catches only what he needs for the moment, taking no more time than needed to fish. The businessman asks the fisherman why he doesn't spend the time catching more? The fisherman shrugs and says that he sleeps late, wakes to play with his children, then talks to his wife, makes love to her, takes a nap if he feels like it (typical man), then spends the evening with his pals.

What a waste of time, the businessman balks. Reaching into the depths of his education, the businessman lays out a plan of action: spend more time catching fish to buy a boat to catch more fish to buy a fleet of boats to catch even more fish. Instead of selling to the middleman, open your own cannery so you can have control over the product, processing, and distribution. The fisherman would have to leave his small village and move into the big city so he can open offices to manage his burgeoning empire. The lowly fisherman would have more money than he could ever spend.

The fisherman asks how long this would take? 

A mere decade or two.

Then what?

The businessman scoffs and states: you can then sleep late, wake to play with your children, then talk to your wife, make love to her, take a nap if you feel like it, then spend the evening with your pals.

Long story short, live in the moment.

 Crouching tiger looking for hidden dragon

Crouching tiger looking for hidden dragon

Why do people tell a hella long story, then summarize by saying "Long story short"? Too late, bud!

There is another lesson, of course, as these folktales tend to have a lot of depth. Rudyard Kipling had given an address at McGill University in Montreal in 1907. He warned the students against an over-concern for money, or position, or glory: Some day you will meet a man who cares for none of these things. Then you will know how poor you are.

In Kipling's other writings, he said it was all right to have dreams, goals, aspirations, but to be careful that they don't rule you.

This coming from a yet-to-be published author, me. Sorta like single people saying that it's important to know how to have fun while being alone. Isn't that how you go blind?

Travel the Road Less Taken

Critics. What's the saying about critics? If you can't do, critique? That's not it, but something like that.

When I began writing, one of the things I had done was read Roger Ebert's movie reviews. There were times I agreed, and others when I disagreed, like when he gave four stars to PROMETHEUS and one to KICK ASS. Either way, I always learned something about story and film. With Ebert's passing, I'm left with no critic that I really trust.

That's a monstrous woman

I read a favorable review on RogerEbert.com for the movie GODZILLA. I saw the film and was smiling because the monsters destroyed Honolulu and San Francisco; two of my favorite places in which I'm very familiar with. They got some details wrong, but who cares?

One of the commenters of the review stated Hollywood can't come up with an original idea, therefore the remakes. How many Superman, Batman and Spiderman movies have been made? How many gawd dayem Paranormal Activity movies will there be? The fifth will be released late 2014 per IMDb.

Another commenter responded more profoundly: Would the market support original movies (indies)?

And this is the crux of the issue. Will the market—dat be us, folks—support it?

I've spent endless hours researching literary agents. Their initial acceptance is whether they like your writing. They'll say talent, voice, original idea, perfection are what they look for. But it comes down to do they connect with what you've pored your heart into?

From reading hundreds of agent interviews and blogs, I know that they ponder who they can pitch your book to. Because you can have all the talent in the ten dimensions of multiple universes, but if they don't think they can sell your book, then they'll reject it.

It's not you, it's the passion that is your book. Ouch.

Who's behind me?

People think Hollywood has a very narrow view of what can make money, and they wouldn't be wrong. There are several indie movies that have made it big (please don't say the Paranormal Activity franchise), but the likelihood of that happening is small. And there have been many blockbusters who've failed as well, which is why the suits in Holly's wood (sounds kinda dirty but I can't picture why) are hard pressed to greenlight projects unless there's a market for it—dat be money, folks.

Worse, is that the suits in the publishing world are even tighter. So tight that if you stick a lump of coal up their asses you wouldn't be able to take it back out. Plus, that would be painful. And smelly.

So why write? Some passionately declare it's their passion. Others call it their calling. Me? It's just what I do. I love to storytell. So sue me. Wait! Don't. Seriously. Don't.

In spewing the end of the world, I suggest that we all try new things. Watch indie movies. Read mid-list authors. Take the road less traveled, unless you get lost easily. Then maybe carry a GPS device. 

How Many Sunsets Do We Get?

 

How many sunsets do we get in a lifetime?

Better yet, how many sunsets do we see in a lifetime?

You'd think the answer would depend on how accessible sunsets are. I spend a lot of time in San Francisco. I love the city, the weird people, the yuppies—not really, the restaurants, niche neighborhoods, and especially the ocean. I take a lot of walks by The Embarcadero and Fisherman's Wharf. The smell of food mixed with the salty sea air reminds me of my childhood in South America. But the one thing that's a little hard to come by are sunsets. The tall buildings make the sun set around three or four o'clock.

For the past three months, I've been living in Hawaii, and the one thing I do is go see sunsets. It's different every time, it's always beautiful, and it attracts tons of tourists. Since the Waikiki beaches face westward, there's nothing to block our view of the sunsets. I'm always amazed at how much the sky we see here, at least on the beach.

But my roommates don't spend much time on the beach nor do they go see sunsets, despite the fact that we're literally a ten minute walk to the edge of the Pacific Ocean. I'd understand if they were bogged down by family, work, life. But that's not the case. I'm older than they are, so there is a part of me that understands that we only get a certain number of sunsets, sunrises, full moons, laughs, shared moments with loved ones. Instead, they spend their time drinking and partying. And that's cool. I've done my share. But that part of my life quickly waned. For my roomies, it's a slower ebb. 

Now the question becomes will I get tired of sunsets, the beach, swimming in the ocean, and communing with nature. I don't know. But I'm grateful for having seen more sunsets in the past three months than I ever have in my life. And it's apparent by the tourist turn out that they love sunsets too.

Life's a beach.

I Don't Date Asian Guys

A friend of mine accused me of being racist. Now, old school Asians tend to be racist. And in some ways, when I look at someone I do assume certain things by their actions and by what they look like, but I don't hate on them. What my friend was talking about was me being racist against my own people. Did he mean humans?

I say Herro a lot. I also look at drivers when they make driving mistakes. I slap my forehead when he's an Asian, and sigh when she's an Asian woman. A part of me is tired of comedians relying on the old stand by that Asian men have small peepees and that we own laundromats. There's no creativity when comedians say the same thing over and over. It gets boring. Though, I've yet to see a laundromat owned by a non-Asian. Hmm.

In saying this, I don't go on missions or write articles or protest against Asian stereotypes. 

In the above video, one of the women hates it when she's told to get over the Asian stereotypes. The others agree with her. How could they not? One of the bloggers is called Angry Asian Man!

However, I am one of those who would say to get over it. Guess she and I will never go on a date.

I laugh at Asian stereotypes because I do think they're ridiculous and funny. I'm not bothered by any of it, so I put little thought into any of it being true. That includes body parts, ladies. Wink, wink. Don't judge me by my small hands!

By railing against Asian stereotypes, power is given to it, perpetuating the stereotypes themselves. So in a way, the people in the first video are helping people who actually hate Asians pass along this ridiculousness.

The cool thing is that the first video came from an Asian female comedian, Jenny Yang, who I saw live in Oakland, and she makes fun of these stereotypes. But it was kinda sad to see her in that first vid because the Asians there seemed to take themselves a bit too seriously. Given their successful blogs, I guess there are a lot of upset slanty-eyed people.

Do you know slanty isn't even a word? Look it up. Well, you can't cuz it don't be exististin'. So why get upset about a word that doesn't even hold a place in the Engrish dictionary. And yes, I did type Engrish.

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent -Eleanor Roosevelt

Words don't hurt. Sticks and stones, on the other hand, can break bones.

There is so much power in laughter. I think that's why I am the way I am. I laugh at a lot of things that maybe shouldn't be laughed at. I take very little seriously, including myself. But when it comes to my writing, I put my heart and soul into it: love. But that's another subject matter.

I do take my work seriously and the way to do that is not to take yourself too seriously -Alan Rickman

There's Nothing to Fear but Really Big Spiders

Living in Hawaii has made me lazy. I hadn't written a post since February 1st. That's like two months! But the beach life is so totally awesome, dude. Like totally rad, brah. 

One of the things I love to do is wander around O'ahu. Other than Waikiki, there are little areas that boast good food, cheaper since Waikiki is a tourist trap, cool locals, and neat indie stores. Not many locals live in Waikiki, so going on a walkabout around Honolulu is pretty cool. 

I had gone on a hike with some of the locals, and they suggested I check out Koko Head Crater. I didn't know much about it, except that it was a crater. Yes, my Sherlock like deduction was workin' overtime. Reading reviews and articles about Koko Head Trail, I had found out that it was like a really intense StairMaster workout with a mere 1048 steps.

 

Easy peasy. Psh.

Hell...I've hike up and back to Half Dome in flip flops, which was a huge mistake. Don't do that unless you like large bubbly blisters under your feet and in between your toes. And since I didn't ship my car to Hawaii, I've been walking an average of five miles a day. So what's a little StairMaster workout?

Let's start with the steps. 

 

These are steps? 

You don't have to be intelligent to see that these ain't steps. Koko Head used to be a military lookout, and to send supplies to those stationed there, they used a railcar system. So the steps were actual railroad ties. Instead of a normal step think skipping every other step. That's what it was like within the first two thirds of this ridiculously easy climb (sarcasm). 

Now, if you look at the above picture again, do you see where the trail/railroad ties narrow to what looks like a hyperdermic needle? The incline at that point increases to 45 degrees. In other words, if a person tripped and fell down those steps...well...good luck pal. He ain't stoppin' till he reaches the bottom of that needle portion of the trail. It's at this point where my legs started to burn as if someone had doused gasoline on my legs and torched them with a...uh...torch. With the increase in incline, the ties also became more difficult. Instead of taking every other step, it was more like taking three steps up at a time. The incline had also raised each tie, making each step taller. I be short. That's ghetto for I gots me some short ass legs. I had to take like five or six maybe seven breaks. And by the time I got to the top, my tank top was drenched in sweat. And remember. This is da H.I. (The Hawaiian Islands). There were very attractive women already at the top, and here I came breathin' like I'm about to give birth, drippin' in sweat like I just got outta the ocean, and too tired to puff up my broad chest. OK. It's not that broad.

 

 

Dang, dat's hella high. And no I ain't high like pakalolo high

From the panoramic picture above, it looks pretty high. That's because it's pretty freakin' high.  Damn high. Like Gawd was right there high. This normally wouldn't be a problem, except I'm deathly afraid of heights. I get scared just lookin' out the window of a tall building. And don't get me started with those Apple store stairs that you can see through. Yeesh!

But I knew I wanted to climb Koko Head. I knew that the fear of heights was just in my head. So I went and did it. I took the above panoramic and proclaimed my manliness. Then I realized that to get back down to the foothill, I had to go down those railroad ties.

None of the reviews said anything about that!

Slowly, I took each of those 1000 plus steps down. My legs were already shaky from the climb up. But I was doing it! Again, I proclaimed my manliness, as I negotiated each step like a child learning how to walk.

Then I heard something odd.

Two local girls giggled as they 'skipped to the lou' down the ties like they were playing hopscotch. They made it down the crater before I was even half way. Needless to say, my manliness deflated. Then why did I say it?

Only thing we have to fear is fear itself -Franklin D. Roosevelt

So what did I do to overcome my fear of heights? Nuthin'. Throughout my climb and descent of the stairs, my fear of heights was alive. And like the white noise of a cafe when I'm writing, I paid little attention to it. There were moments where I panicked at how steep the mountainside was increasing, but I did my best to let that moment pass.

Will I ever go up Koko Head Crater? Hell no. Well...maybe no. Though, I have to say that I felt a sense of accomplishment as I knead my crippled thighs unable to run away from a tiny spider.

Check out this sunset:

 

Waikiki Sunset

Double D

Supa Large
Supa Large

About a month ago, a long time coworker had left the company, and it sparked the idea of happiness. Not that I was happy he left, nor did I really care. His initials were D. D. At first, I wanted to call him Dee Squared, but as the name sounded, it was two square. It matched up well, though, because he was Asian and very good at math. So, there was depth in the name. However, many people have called my humor dry, so I guess I need to spit more when I joke, and here his name Double D was born.

"Hey, Double D," I called out. My fellow coworkers turned around and started giggling. As you can see, my professionalism at the office is top notch.

At first, he didn't respond, then stated he didn't like being called Double D, but I persisted. Then it caught on as others started to use his monicker. And, like a knee jerk reaction, he started to respond as if he was born with the name.

My then girlfriend and I took him skiing many years ago, he was hitting on her because he didn't know I was dating her. Well, he hit on her because he liked her, but he wouldn't have if he knew. I think. Afterward, we went to dinner at a steakhouse, nothing better than meat after a hard day of snowboarding in the warm California sun.

The conversation swerved to happiness and the cause of happiness. He was unhappy. He didn't own a house. According to him, he should have at his age. He didn't have a wife, a nice car, high enough income, the list rolled on and on. I told him none of that stuff would cause happiness. You either are, or you decide not to be.

Before I found writing, I went on a soul searching venture. I knew I wanted to do something creative, so I tried everything. I drew, painted, wrote poetry and stories, taught martial arts, acted for several years, worked on opening my own school, but nothing made me happy. Then I came up with the brilliant idea to write the one story that has been tugging at me for over twenty years. And bam! My soulmate, or who I thought was my soulmate, and I ended it.

Doubo Happeeness
Doubo Happeeness

Gawd...it was soul-wrenching painful. I cried for nearly a year. Well, not constantly. But it provided the muse I needed to put into words, plot, and emotional state to write Nightfall. You see, my main character, Talon, loses a child, and the only thing I could come close to was the intense body-numbing pain of a broken relationship. Still no happiness in the sense of finally finding and writing the story that had haunted me.

What the hell?

Was I fulfilled? Yes. Was I purposeful? Fuck yeah. And those haunting voices slowly subsided, in a good way. I was on destiny's road. But was I happy? Not really.

Then it smacked me in the face. Hard! Like a punch that you don't see cause you're not lookin'. Happiness was a choice! Sort of.

I'd been on the spiritual path of enlightenment for some time, trying to decipher the cryptic language of oneness, all for one, one for all, the source, the higher intelligence, inner intelligence, inner wisdom, living in the moment, the present, the Buddhaness, the perseverance of the Hesus story.

And I realized, happiness is born with us, innate. You see it with babies, that joy, that connection they have with their parents. You see happiness when kids play, pretending, not yet tarnished by the limitations of adulthood. You see this with geniuses, who don't let others' limiting thoughts hinder them. Happiness, after all, is not a choice, but part of our being. We are born with the ability to think and feel, just as we are born to be happy, and lather it with sadness. We choose to be sad, otherwise we are just happy, content.

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Double D had bought a nice car and had moved out of the room he rented and into his new home in the suburbs. He had found a job with more pay, maybe a better title. But he wasn't happy. I know this, even though I hadn't spoken to him since that dinner because in the years since he's bought his home, none of his friends have ever seen it. They know what city it's in and were promised an invite to a house warming party that never came. What was going on? He was afraid of being judged. For what, I do not know. But maybe somehow he thought that he wasn't enough, the car wasn't impressive, or that his house was in some way representative of who he was (too small?). In essence, I assume, his happiness was linked to others' perceptions of him. If that is the case, then he will never be happy. Even if people revere him, he knows, as we all do, that opinions can change with a drop of a hat.

That doesn't mean we shouldn't be unhappy, because life has its ups and downs, but that happiness is our natural state. If you think about it, it takes a lot of work and effort to be unhappy. That's why meditation is often the solution to this. To quiet your mind is to quiet the crap that stresses us out.