Sunday, December 20, 2009

channel yes news

i propose a news channel that is totally committed to positivity. by that i mean its reporting will be based solely on stories of accomplishment, generosity, and humanity's successes rather than its failings. we have ample news agencies who capitalize on our interest in inter-personal drama, human-induced terror, and the sufferings of mankind. silver linings are not always present and quite often it's the completely silver clouds we ignore and instead keep our gaze on darkened horizons. this is not a case of naivety or an inability to cope with modern societal concerns. rather, this is but a counter-balance of wide-spread fear mongering. an escape from pronounced pessimism. a right for what's wrong.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

ode to the quake

need an evening jolt? head to starbucks. currently serving seasonal favorites rasberry mocha, hazelnut latte, and 6.8 tremors. that was the situation this evening as i settled in for a hot cup of bitterness that usually is a pivotal sparkplug to me introducing pen to paper. i've experienced these babies before so i wasn't completely taken off guard, but i was amazed at the reaction by those around me. these were taiwanese, who usually brush off earthquakes like february mosquitos. however, shoppers were bolting for sliding glass doors and shrieking behind clothing racks as the building wavered. a solid half minute came and went and then normalcy returned. a few nervous giggles were shared and people continued on their way.

i could leave things at that, but, for some reason, during the whole commotion my eyes could not stray from the tall, determined coffee barista sporting wavy red locks. she did not flinch. not once. while her coffee brethren were clutching roasters for support or preparing to hop a counter and flee to the hills, she maintained her brewing of a previous order WHILE punching in the request of a dazed customer. this young lady either has nerves of steel or was presently sampling a tripledose of vicadin. i was impressed, awed, bewidldered, and slightly aroused. so much so that i wrote her a poem.

where were you barista two
when walls began to shake
women shrieked and coffee shuffled
symptoms of a quake

you did not duck
you did not hide
you did not fling
apron aside

while you were brewing coffee
like an other-worldly champ
i was slowly noticing
my boxers growing damp

i'd like to tell sir starbucks
about your dedication
i've only seen that sort of calm
on those on medication

i credit you barista two
this was no doubt exciting
i'd like to have the recipe
what coffee wave you riding?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

caps are wack

i started jotting down a few bizarre memories down from today and in the midst of doing so i sighed, remembering that i was going to have to go back and fix all these dotted i's and the lowercased t's in taiwan. but why? school essays are gone just as cursive writing disappeared from the scene once high school hit. so that's it, its official. at least as far as blogs go. no more punctuation. well, goodbye capitalization at the very least. now, caps will be used solely for thoughts of extreme importance, whims, distress signals, and eye catching brainwashers.

names, places, companies. what makes these so utterly important to require the capital letter to introduce the word? words are words and they are undoubtedly essential for a society that values written communication to function. however, saluting some of these disturbing dictators and ghastly places with increased letter size seems belittling to terms like peace, justice, and mac and cheese. curiosity is aroused when our lettering may silently point to things of supposed societal value. most notable is the glaring letter/word/self indulgent I. where are the You's, We's, or They's? golden rules and strength in numbers apparently need not apply to any aspect of english composed by pen or key. also the beginning of sentence capitalization? i am capable of distinguishing between the dot of a period and the comma's curvy figure or a well placed colon. and i'm not pushing for random capitals here, there, and everywhere similar to the poet whose name i'm failing to recall (cc something?) i'd say only when the situation needs attention called to NEPHALISM or TROMBONES i caps lock it up. however, period demarcation is a must. as a teacher, i've spent days pouring through student papers, wildly perioding a breathless forty seven word sentence.

and after all this, if you are fortunate enough to be a text message recipient of me in taiwan on my current twenty dollar cell phone, you'd be calling capital attention to the fact that the entirety of my texts are sent in the taller fashion. why you ask? well this may also be the underlying reason behind this newfound selective punctuation push. laze e. my cell is stuck in capital mode for whatever reason and i'm completely fine with any person receiving texts from me to be taken aback from the oppressive scream i am offering up. a quick look at how capital letters change things dramatically--a simple invitation to a meeting at my place (come over) turns into full on creep and desperation mode when i send you (COME OVER). throw one of those icon winks at the end and i've absolutely lost a friend for good. i suppose i could say it gives added importance to my message. (just trying to be taken seriously here) also, dropping that right or left pinky down to the shift key just kills my buzz, bro. no more. it's not like i use these heightened letters during my chit chat sessions to facebook friends online. it takes me back to the days of AIM or googlechat or MSN when mom and dad finally get on the scene and begin window boxes of communication with a: Dear Andrew. if they can advance, i very much can along with them. i guess i can't call this a rant, more so a declaration of distaste and a discovery of the way forward. smaller fingers may fatten as a result, but gosh it feels good to be free.

p.s. it's october fifteenth. HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD.

Monday, October 5, 2009

the abode

"I'm home!" I shout, opening the apartment door. A long day of high schools, foreign foods, and scooter rides has exhausted me more than I imagine a Monday should. Tossing my bag down and unstrapping the velcro sneaks, I enter cozy apartment 8A8. No response to my greeting.

I suppose I'd rather be disappointed than disturbed. Living alone does not give me the luxury of a warm meal awaiting my return, a buddy to talk baseball over beers, or bedspace to be shared. A salutation to my entrance would either confirm my suspicion of Asian spirits within the walls or would mean the nocturnal being beneath my dresser has finally found his voice and is ready to start demanding bread mold or ask for directions. To explain: I picked up this apartment off a teacher departing from the school I currently teach at. After viewing a number of rival rooms in this 15 floor complex, I settled on this one due to a slight touch of laziness (fully furnished) and one sweet four by two foot drapery. That didn't really explain much.

Moving forward, (temporarily backwards) two weeks ago I collected the two bags of Andy that I travel with and made my way to the double doors of newly found home. Key clicks, door opens, light switches, cockroach scurries. Keep in mind, that was singular. Roach, not roaches (seeing is believing I say). And one bachelor roach I can deal with. I actually have no problem with the guy, figure he's not all that different from me outside of his nuclear resistance and scuttling capabilities. His name is Bertle. I don't know why. But its a pretty unpleasant name and the fact that he could very well enter a bodily orifice while I sleep and lay the eggs of urban legends makes me consider upgrading him to a Jacob or Michael. Regardless, I've yet to see him since our first encounter. I figure like some former roommates I've had, he does his thing and I do mine. And he does not have an obnoxiously annoying Taiwanese girlfriend, nor miss the toilet, nor even mind Vanessa Carlton.

So that's Bertle. Other than that we've got a fully functioning washer, fridge, semi chandilier with dimming capabilities (what what), full-length mirrors, drawers, and a couch worth laying on to write tales such as these. The bed fits me well enough although it is severely lacking any sheets. Towels, clothes, and warm nights have yet to get me out to linen shop. My television currently has an American flag (won in a sticky ball drinking challenge) draped completely over it. Reasoning being, I do not have cable and I'm proud to be an American where at least I know I'm free, says Lee. Above me on the wall is a red button. It has Japanese writing on it. The Japanese writing literally says Push. I've been raised on obedience. Thus I will follow orders one of these late nights or early mornings. The bathroom is bath-less but the shower height nearly fits my desires. The toilet is nothing like the one of my last Taiwanese apartment that was equipped with seated warmth and some bum water jets with power and temperature control. Sadly and strangely, the mirror is the lone heated unit of the bathroom. One pot of plantlife keeps things aeromatically fantastic along with some mysterious oils, altars, and candles the room's former resident left behind. But Ian's greatest blessing was the aforementioned drapery.

Not sure if drapery is the best word to describe, I now possess a pseudo-Lara croft waist up side shot of an Anime goddess hanging above my bedframe. Divine beauty surpasses impure thoughts regarding her finely designed human features. And putting her on the wall behind my head rather than across the wall from it gives her more of a guardian angel type status rather than cartoon vixen. I imagine if a soulmate is to be eventually found and brought home, Daphne my dangerous wallflower is going to be rotated 180 degrees and will be staring upon white walls. I couldn't handle her jealousy and the wrath she could bring upon me with some possible cockroach assistance. Ten foot high windows gaze upon the train station eight floors down across the street. People watching is morning routine. In my makeshift kitchen, I have a portable stove fueled by a butane can which keeps cooking completely unpredictable. Tatami mat rugs keep things Asian while Consortium photos upon the wall keep things nostalgic. Speaking of which, looking upon these names in writing I realize that nearly another ABCD tandem is in order (much love to the three). From travels through Bogota, Valparaiso, and Denver, this is proving to be a hard thing to be escaped. And why shouldn't it be? Maybe the plant will be soon become a Chloe or perhaps Christopher. More christening awaits the nine months I'm contractually obligated to between these walls. I suspect the windows could use white board marker messages for disembarking train passengers, the bed could use a blanket, and the floors could use some dancing. After plenty of hostel living in Argentina and Costa Rica, guest houses in Japan, bungalows in Thailand, a family in Chile, I appreciate the space and solitude I'm finally providing myself with.

So there's the written tour. Welcome one welcome all. Mi casa es su casa. Just keep your eyes open for insect greetings and keep them off my lady.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Who wants a high five?

There's something about being able to stretch your legs out as far as you want and to realize that they are fully supported by a padded surface underneath that makes me content. Sometimes I cross them at my ankles, sometimes I do not. But without a doubt, it's one hundred times better than the fetal position the lower half of my body automatically contorts to upon landing on a bed or couch. Simply because there sometimes is a very large disadvantage to being taller than your country's native.

Any travelling experience has it's ups downs and in-betweens. Clearly the ups tip the scale or I and the majority of all nomads would not continually journey the way they do. I'd like to be able to say that I always spend the time I spend dwelling on past instances on the positives. but that would be a lie and this isn't a passage about lies. It's also not one about a heightened traveler's complaints. I'd like to say it's more of a reminder to others that my 6 foot four inch frame AT TIMES would be the opposite of what some term "a blessing in disguise". Because when you hit the road, I promise you that you'd sacrifice your blessing of the ability to dunk a basketball (which problematically enough I can not do) and replace it with the ability to remain in a seated posture upon a bus that does not require you to spear your knees sideways into the unlucky stranger who will deal with said knees for the next six hours. And there is no disguising height. That's also a promise.

Living in Asia is a small feat in itself if you are on the taller end of the yardstick. I've walked into a class full of confused Japanese students with blood streaming from the forehead after an attempt to walk into a room at standard speed backfired when the doorframe failed to fit my height requirements and instead chose to leave its mark on my skull. Did I realize the gash, decide to ignore it and chose to enter the class as hard core badass number one? No, my head had just become so accustomed to these daily beatings that I was no longer fazed. Top five everyday places to bash your face in no apparent order: exiting subways, kindergartens, bathrooms in bars, entering and exiting McDonald's Playlands, and any glass door (you can't see it, you can't feel it right?) So let it be said, the door frame's overhang is my enemy. And something must be said for chandeliers. Unless you've got yourself vaulted ceilings, grand pianos, and maybe a phantom lurking in underground chambers, what are you trying to prove? Stop all the dangling.

While living in Chile, I spent some time with a host family who were fantastic people and took the greatest care of me. So I can forgive their choice of providing me with their 16 year old daughter's former bed to spend my nights on. Now I'm accustomed to the ankles hanging over the edge, but when we are approaching the upper calf region, something must be done. Rather than waking up every morning having to massage blood into my lifeless lower limbs, I chose to tuck an extra sheet into the bed's end and stretch that across the room into a closed desk drawer. My host family was under the impression that this gringo still used his free time to build blanket forts, but REM was finally achieved and all was well. Backpacking through South America also allowed me to realize another instance of height related discrimination (also known as HRD). Because of their countrys' smaller stature, South Americans are seemingly not that into leg room. So every backseat taxi ride, domestic air flight, SUV jungle vehicle, or cramped bus brought with it minimal space for these chicken legs and potential blood clots for future fun.

More than anything, we receive a constant inquiry from strangers about our height. Locals wonder how we acquired such a thing, exact dimensions, what clouds taste like, and nutritional suggestions on how they could too share our elevated point of view. Apart from reccommending a steady dose of green vegetables and 8-12 servings of milk per day, there is no choice but to smile and politefully provide the information requested. While waiting to cross a busy road, the corner of your eye will often catch a group of giggling teenagers measuring themselves to your back. It also is no coincidence that i have the phrase "so tall" in my vocabulary in Chinese, Japanese, and Spanish. But it's not all bad. I get a great view of scalps, particularly in crowded areas so I am very well aware of who's dying blond and who's not using enough dandruff shampoo. I am also now able to convert inches to centimeters so i can accurately give out my numbers, thus proving that height does educate. And while a passing glance upward from an older mumbling gentleman does not equate to an Argentinian beauty acknowledging my body's resistance to gravity, it's always good to be noticed.

So if you're considered tall and planning on crossing some borders anytime soon, I suggest a brief investigation on your destination's average height and its documented ability to deal with those extra inches. Just be prepared to let your new friends know how the weather is up here.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Early yesterday morning, I decided that my life would be take a turn for the intellectual and sophisticated with the introduction of tea into my daily routine. This decision by no means came naturally; tea is something that has always confused more than enlightened me. I've never sat back after draining a majestic cup of fresh herb-mountain-wildrose-sage blend and had that sense of calm or understanding or contentment that tea seems to provide for others. I usually slam the cup down and wait for something to hit. Wait, that's it? Other things i have no particular taste for, yet still drink on a given occassion solely for resulting effects: coffee, beer, gin, and tomato juice. Each possesses a consequenting high or low that I'm craving; at the very least I'm awarded with a small sense of satisfaction for forcing my tastebuds to weather a liquid storm.

The more I traveled, the more I became even more inquisitive about this beverage. Mainly because it was at my every turn. There was tea and there was me. Living with a family in Chile, I was served it typically twice a day. Most households even have a makeshift meal based around tea consumption, held in the late evenings. Tecito, as I believe it's called, is nothing more than a time for families to gather once more and drink their brew of choice. This is usually served alongside mountains of bread accompanied by avocados and a bucket of butter. Spending nearly two years in Asia, I've found myself more addicted to Anime and Korean boy bands than I am to a morning cup of fresh milk tea. And here I am, living in an arguable tea mecca, appreciating ever so little about the importance of a bag filled with leaves, soaked in scalding water.

Now don't get me wrong, tea is not something I wholeheartedly despise or have even held one man protests for. It's fine, really. The thing is, it's just so---bland. At least a black iced coffee hits my tongue hard and lets it know it's there. A can of tomato and carrot juice keeps me feeling healthy enough to accept the gag-inducing effect it often has upon me. I mean, at least these drinks show up. At times, I feel like I could get more from wringing out the soggy towel I've used to soak up a pipe leak in the basement than this supposed magical blend of vegetation has ever given me. (I've never remedied a pipe leak and have no idea what basement I'm talking about, but please don't take me for a liar.) I dont know, perhaps I'm turned off by the prim and properness of pinky up, antique china welding, cutesy sips that I envision an avid tea drinker to partake in. At this point in time, I don't even own nor have any means to acquiring a monacle. But I have begun to realize that the culture itself is not all tea and crumpets style, which I had previously decided it to be. For example, the intricate process of a tea ceremony I observed in Japan is spiritually above and beyond my all-you-can-drink club favorite Long Island iced teas. Poking into a streetside tea shop yesterday, I discovered the magnitude of this situation. The sheer diversity of tea flavoring I witnessed craftily persuaded me into a 90 Taiwan Dollar purchase of high mountain oolong tea. 18 bags and possible bliss in a box. Starting anew in small town Taiwan, two hours away from the grandeur of Taipei, I've accepted the possibility of beginning a fresh chapter in my life. And maybe, just maybe, tea will become a warm, friendly, and ever so slightly tasty partner in this new journey.

Afterthought: Last night, lacking a teapot, I boiled water in a massive pot and mixed the first cup. Painfully hot, it took a good twenty minutes to finish, but I reckoned that maybe slow sipping is part of the tea drinker's culture. I read a book while doing so and nibbled on a chinese cookie. I put on glasses for the occassion. I felt astute. Three hours later, I was sitting straight up in bed scrambling to find any blunt object I could utilize as a weapon. My possible tea-induced dreams had convinced me that dozens of dinosaur eggs were hatching in my drawers and carnivorous babies were on the prowl. Appendages were no longer safe. Teatime for Andy has now switched to a morning affair.