Posts Tagged 'Home'

Kauai, Seattle

A DRIZZLE SENT SLOW shivers through the puddles that lay along the warped boards of pier 68. Through my headphones came sweet, blue reverberations of Wes Montogomery‘s guitar. I stared out into grey clouds, deep shuddering waves, and then back towards the towering city – cranes perched over a changing skyline.

Next to the pier a behemoth was docked. Across its stern read “Kauai” in large print. It was an enormous, beige, rusted freighter. It blocked the views of the modern waterfront condos, of the Alaskan Way hotels.

I had spent the morning roaming Seattle streets, soaking in my final day; I picked up a New Yorker at the Pike Place newstand and read it liesurely over a riccotta and marmalade crumpet, I pondered the latest exhibitions at the Seattle Art Museum, and slurped a bowl of Pho down dear Pioneer Square. It was serene to observe the city as it moved, to again breathe and be a part of it.

And there I stood on the pier, staring at that ship and thinking about Hawaii. I envisioned a lush and sunny coast. I wondered when the ship had come, when it would return, and how many times it had made the journey over the years. I stood and I felt at once rooted and rootless, both grounded and far-flung. I floated in a cloud of my thoughts, surrounded by the ocean and the rain, content both to just be there and to know that in the morning I would depart.

(Edited: 01.05.2008)

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A Glorious New Year

TO DESCRIBE MY NEW YEAR’S eve as tame would be the understatement of, well, the year. My fiancee and I spent most of the day in bed with the stomach flu, wrestling with fits of nausea and watching Doctor Zhivago while timidly noshing on saltines. I’m almost positive we were asleep by 9 p.m.; the only thing to clue me in to the fact that the New Year had arrived was the commotion caused by neighborhood revelers and the fizzes and pops of their illegal fireworks. Startled awake, I leaned over for a sleepy New Years kiss, and then passed out for the next eight hours.

But such is life. Though we weren’t able to join in the joyful consumption of copious amounts of booze or bang pots and pans to welcome the spirits of the year to come, we were together, and that’s more than enough.

So now New Year’s Day has arrived – a day, like any other, that in cultures across the globe symbolizes redemption and possibility. We shake off old habits to become our new selves…or so we try. For me, this means a renewed sense of determination in my goal to be writing on January 1st, 2009, from a seat somewhere in Seoul – or somewhere similarly far away (hopefully without the stomach flu). For The Daily Transit this means a renewed effort to, in fact, be “daily.”

The list of things I want to accomplish in the ensuing 12 months goes on: to finally be able to confidently say that I am fluent in Korean, to find a steady reporting job, to write more frequently for my own sake, to read more literature, to become a more fearless traveler, to slow my frenetic mind and to enjoy the subtler moments of life.

Knowing how to begin is of course the most difficult part, and though everyone has their own ideas, it is for this reason the majority of us reach year’s end with a handful of regrets.

Seeing the changed face of my hometown over the last couple weeks has been a lesson in impermanence. This morning I stared out across Puget Sound to a remarkably clear view of the Olympic Mountains, their peaks cutting into deep purple clouds, and something inside me shifted. Past failures and stresses seemed to have evaporated, wrenched out of my system like that vile flu. I thought, Beyond those snowy caps is the world, a glorious new year, and all the opportunities they afford.

Home, and Empty Space

THE DOOR IS UNLOCKED, but indoors the scene is desolate, changed – bare floor boards and empty space. “Hello?” I call out to a man who is working in the back room, “Is the owner here?” The worker nods, and then catches the attention of someone I cannot see. Moments later a different man greets me – but his face, too, is unfamiliar.

“Oh, I meant someone else,” I say, trailing off. The room I stand in – once filled with plush couches and the comforting scent of traditional Korean baked goods – is deconstructed, and now smells only of drywall. The walls are stripped of the crimson paper that once covered them; between them there is nothing, save for the counter and an old fryer in back.

“What happened to the owner of the bakery?” I ask.

“He closed,” the man replies, “About a month ago.”

A flush of regret. Why didn’t I stop by last time I was in town?

“Did he close because of the new H-Mart?” I ask, referring to the retail temple of Asian foods across the street – both a boon and a curse to the local Korean community. The man gives me a resigned grin and nods. We share an unspoken second of comiseration over what is likely only the latest loss of another mom-and-pop joint – killed by convenience.

“I used to work here several years ago,” I tell him. “Does the old owner still live nearby?”

The man nods, and silence follows. I break it, wishing him a merry Christmas and letting him get back to work – gutting the space where I spent my last summer before college, where I kneaded dough, packed rice cakes, cracked eggs and burned my fingertips dropping donuts into hot oil.

Outside, I pause in the December air long enough to feel a pang of vague and unexpected sadness. I realize that I don’t have my old boss’ phone number, and that I’ve lost touch with anyone who would.

***
TDT is back home in Seattle for a couple weeks. Posts may be a little thin due to the holidays – best wishes for the season and the New Year to all you readers.

The Accumulated Madness of Stationary Life

I’VE BEEN BUSY LATELY. It hasn’t been with the “ordinary” business that so often consumes my time and gives me a ready excuse to forego posting (I’ll just come right out and say it – TDT has done a shabby job of being “daily” lately), but instead with something a bit more basic, more necessary, more exciting: I’ve been cleaning out my apartment.

Actually, it’s been less like cleaning, and more like dredging – raking out the dirt of stationary life. Closer, perhaps, to the Korean word daechongso (대청소) which in context is akin to our “spring cleaning,” but literally means “great cleaning.” Indeed, a great cleaning it has been.

If my sudden passion for organization seems strange, allow me to explain: it isn’t the cleaning, per se, but rather what the cleaning is in preparation for – the two most significant moves of my life.

In a couple weeks, I will move in with my fiancee. In several months, I will move across the Pacific, back to Korea. And so now I am paring down my belongings, tossing into boxes the books, clothes, and random items that I no longer use; Goodwill is their destination. I hold the ambitious goal of ultimately whittling down all my possessions so that they will fit into a solitary backpack.

(And a very large duffle bag.)

Travelers often wax poetic about the sense of freedom they feel owning little – what is less written about is the harried, ridiculous process of cleaning house. In the past few days I have thrown out punctured tubes for bicycle tires, syllabi from classes I took my junior year, nubby art erasers that somehow made it here from high school, phone bills from long ago (I paid those, right?), floppy disks, and a Jamiroquai CD.

The most painful item to give up was the ratty pair shoes I wore when I was in China – they were bright green Adidas Dragons, and because of their history I nicknamed them “the Jade Dragons.” Those soles had walked a good chunk of the Great Wall, and had pedaled me around Beijing. As I stood over the trashcan internally debating, I thought, “but what am I gonna do…carry these around forever?” Keep the memory but lose the material; I tossed them.

I’m still in the midst of doing the craigslist thing, trying to sublet my place so I won’t be paying out the wahoo for a room I don’t live in (I’m also throwing in a couch and coffee table…and whatever else I can leave in the cupboards without the new resident noticing). A gaggle of belongings are still waiting to be sorted through, though I’m leaning more and more towards throwing it all away and then just seeing what I miss.

…Or perhaps just getting another duffle bag.

(Updated 12.25.2007)


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