Saturday, April 16, 2011

Prompt 8-Nature and Thoughts

My goal with this blog assignment was to be one with nature. When I read other nature articles, there is sense that these writers go to a place where other people can’t.  I don’t know if they are making it up or they actually believe nature is it’s on entity. The first times I went to my spot, it was just a spot. It was a place where I can go to relax and run without being bothered. Now, I feel like the land is talking to me. I’m not sure if that’s nature talking or if I’m going crazy.
                I realize this spot changed throughout the hour. I don’t know why, but I just assumed the weather would be the same if I went here at any time of the day or night. Maybe it’s because in the beginning I was running to this spot, sweating and trying to catch my breath. Now, I walk here, watching my breath swirling in the wind as if I was smoking a cigarette. Most of the times I’ve been here, it’s been frigid. I don’t own a lot of winter clothes, so every time I came here I was more resentful than anything else. It was hard to concentrate at times. Sometimes I just looked at my watch hoping 20 minutes would pass by in an instant.
                I guess after awhile I got use to it. Even though it was hard to concentrate when the snow was blowing in your face, it made me stronger. My skin felt like it was burning and my eyes turned red. Any temperature above freezing was like paradise to me now.  Weather changed me. Well Pittsburgh weather did. It made me expect the unexpected. I’m sure if I was in Hawaii where the temperature was always in the 70’s, I would know what to expect. However, after awhile, it would be boring. Each day was something different in Pittsburgh. True, mostly it would be full of gloomy clouds and unhappy faces, but now and then, you would get a smile, even from a homeless person.
                At first, thoughts of being warm were the only thoughts that came popping through my head. It slowly evolved into useful thoughts: “Why does each snowflake have to be unique,” “Why is the grass still green after being covered in snow for a month,” and “Why can it be short shorts weather one day, and the next day it might start hailing?”
                To me nature is about thoughts. Things that help stir up something in your head. Every time I went to this spot, something new happens. It was pretty wonderful. Sometimes I wouldn’t move without knowing it. I would be so deep in thought that if anyone saw what I was doing, they would think I was a part of nature.  

Friday, April 15, 2011

Place 8 (A quickie before Prompt 8)

Everyone complains about the weather. Not today. It’s beautiful. I don’t like using that word because it doesn’t explain anything. The Mona Lisa is beautiful. My girlfriend is beautiful (She’s sitting right next to me). Where I am standing right now, only one word can describe this, beautiful.
                Maybe it’s because I’m not used to seeing this many people in shorts. Last week, I was wearing a sweater and a snow jacket. Today, I’m overheated with jeans and a sweater. I’m here on my lunch break. I’ve never felt so glad to be on lunch. There’s something different when you’re eating outside. Food seems to taste better.
                People are playing Frisbee right in front of me. I want to join, but I decide I’ll sit on t he grass and watch. This is the first time in awhile where I can sit on the grass and not get any kiss marks from it. The ground feels cold. My head feels the heat, while my butt thinks it’s on an ice cube. I don’t care. I just want to enjoy the first real day of spring. We had spring days before. They were more like teasers of things to come. Today is what days will be like in the future. I want to enjoy this day and think about those coming days where winter will be here again.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Prompt 7 Connection to Storms

I always had a connection with storms. Not just rainstorms, but blizzards, tornadoes, flash flood warnings. Storms that have most people hiding in their house because it’s too dangerous out to go outside.  To me, these storms are like students that no one liked in school and had no friends. Why should sunshine be the only one to have friends?
There was a big snow storm in South Korea last year. It was the first time in 20 years that all the schools in Seoul got shutdown. The only people you would see in the streets were military people who had to clean everything up, well military people and me.  As they were shoving the snow from the streets (I guess Korea never thought about investing in snowplows), I was running in three layers of pants and a hooded sweatshirt in the middle of the street. Cars were abandoned and most were unlocked. It would be paradise for people who played Grand Theft Auto, but all those people stayed in their homes playing the video game instead. On that day, I ran for three hours.
I don’t feel the same way with sunny days. It might be because deep down I’m a loner, and I don’t like to sweat. When I look outside during a thunderstorm, I see loneliness, but feel happy that I can play outside with them. As a child, they were like scary movies to me. A part of me was afraid, but I would still keep watching.
Now as an adult (I guess I’m an adult) I’m still afraid, but instead of watching, I’m in the movie. And what I know about scary movies is that the Asian kid never dies. My mom would yell at me for running outside when there’s lightning out. She doesn’t understand the probability of me getting struck by lightning is me winning the lottery. My dad plays the lottery almost every week. There was once where he had every number correct except for one. Once he wins the lottery, I’ll stop running.
As an adult though, I get fewer chances to run in storms than when I was a kid. I’m either working or sleeping. If I’m so lucky enough to be woken up by a storm I usually go for a walk. My least favorite storms are hail storms, but even then, if I have enough clothes on and have a hockey mask, I don’t mind hail so much.
Flood warnings are the best. Living in Erie, we got them a lot. When water reaches your knees and at anytime you could get hit by a car, well that’s living on the edge for me. I can’t tell you how many times cars honked at me either for saying “Hi” or saying “Get the F out of the road.” To me this is how you experience nature. You go head on and hope your dad doesn’t win the lottery.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Place 7

My mom told me never to talk to strangers. Maybe that's why I don't talk to my dad. My dad hasn't been there throughout my life. I mean, let me try this again. I don't like talking to my dad because he scares me, in a Vietnamese kind of way. I don't really understand the language, so when he talks, it always sounds like he's angry. He could be congratulating me about a job promotion and I would think he was throwing me out of his house. I've seen the History channel. The Viet Cong was ruthless and my dad looks just like one of them.

There's a couple of strangers at my spot. They look like a couple. Only couples hold hands. They're in their mid-50's. How they are acting, I would say they're in love. I want to tell them to get the f out of my spot.

There are a lot of strange things here, besides the couple that's in love. This place is no longer my place. Footprints, a forgotten frisbee, and a couple of pop cans are all what is left from the couple of spring days we had in Pittsburgh. Winter in Pittsburgh is 12 months of the year. Only five of those months have zero snow. Sometimes there are days during the snow season where it gets hot and people wear shorts. It's like Hawaii, but everyone is wearing yellow and tries to pretend they're...Hawaiians.

I'm usually ok with  strangness, but I expected nature to be normal. By normal, I mean expected. I would love to move to Hawaii. The weather is always between 65 and 75 degrees. You will find people at the beach. People will be eating spam or sushi for lunch and dinner. At night, pants would still be an option. Then it would repeat. I wouldn't have to buy so many clothes.Just shorts and t-shirts. That could last me the rest of my life in Hawaii.

Then I realize how awful that would be. I would miss the snow. I would miss the surprise of snowstorms and rainfalls. After a month of paradise, paradise would seem like hell, and hell would seem like hell. I take a look at the couple and they wave at me. I wave back and walk away. Tomorrow will be a new day and maybe I get to wear shorts.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Prompt 6

There’s nothing like being on a track. If I had to pick a place where my life began, it would be there. I guess if you want to be specific, it would be Mcdowell’s track in Erie, PA. It’s not home. It’s not a place where I go to often. I would even say I have less memorable memories than I do memorable ones. But when I go there, my legs tell me, “get the fuck off the track.”
That usually doesn’t happen. I run on railroad tracks and my legs tell me to go faster. On a running track, it’s different. I’ve been told that I wasn’t good enough to be on the track. “You’re too slow Thanh” or “You suck Thanh” are the voices I hear over and over again in my head. This might sound hard, but I hear the same voices when I’m taking a math test as well, and I’m really good at math.
It started when I was a kid. My two brothers and I were competitive with each other. We still are. We try to see who the best was…in everything. I don’t want to get too into it, but I’ve never won in anything, not even in a height contest. I don’t remember when I was ever taller than my little brother. So when I told them I was joining the track team in high school, they had a poll: When Will Thanh Quit the Track Team? If I had to bet on me, it would’ve been a month, but my brother’s friend had taken it already.
I wasn’t fast, so distant running was my only chance to succeed in a sport that is so individualized. I remember my first race. There were two heats. I was in the slower heat.  Running on track is nothing like running on cement.  The cement absorbs your feet. The track acts like a propeller for your feet. I’m a helicopter trying to get off the ground. Once I hear someone say go, I’m off.
Now for most of my track career, I usually finished last. And that was ok with me. I was just happy that I could run around the track four times without quitting. You see for me quitting was always an option. I never learned not to quit. On the track field, it was different. You had everyone watching you, rooting you on. People don’t quit for many reasons.  They never learned how not to quit or they feel like failures if they did quit. For me, I was afraid to quit. I still am. I think it’s the only good thing to be afraid of, that and serial killers.
It so happens that after a couple of years of not quitting, I got good. Good enough to be beat people in a race. The track is life to me. Whatever I do, I’m afraid to quit at it. I might be bad at it, but give it time, I would slowly, but surely, beat you.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Place 6 and the Rain

It’s raining and I don’t have an umbrella. I’m getting wet, but it doesn’t bother me.  Why should it bother me? It’s just water. I read Cassie’s blog, and the only thing I can think about is water. How much water is there on my head now? It reminds me that I need a haircut. I’m getting soaked, but I know it could be worse. A little water isn’t going to hurt me.
I have cheap plastic shoes on. My socks are brown. It was white when I first put them on this morning. I don’t mind. It could be worse.  There could be holes in my house. The rain would be invading the living unannounced. Instead of frying mushrooms and boiling pasta, the pots and pans would be providing rain a home in my home. Even then it could still be a lot worse.
My pants aren’t waterproof. I probably have to buy new khaki’s. Still it could be a lot worse. I could be wearing no pants. My legs would be shivering.  There would be a chance of hypothermia if it was a little colder. Now, I would just get embarrassing looks from people on the streets. Maybe they think I’m homeless with a laptop case. It wouldn’t the first that ever happened to me. But again, it could still be a lot worse.
I’m going to be late for work. My laptop probably got wet. It might not work. I feel my whole life is saved on this computer.  I feel empty when I don’t have a computer. I know how stupid it sounds. It’s just something I could get anytime I want. I’m just so connected by it. It’s my life. The rain laughs and tells me I should get a better life.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Prompt 5

I live in Pittsburgh, PA, but for the people who live in Pittsburgh, I tell them I live in Oakland. It’s not as dark as Shadyside and has fewer squirrels than Squirrel Hill. It was named after William Eichenbaum’s farm that had an abundance of oak trees. William settled here in 1840. Ever since then, trees have been slowly dying here.
It started in the early 1900’s. Pittsburgh started growing as a city: manufacturing factories, tall trees, and fast trains. Because of it, the city produced a lot of people. It also produced a lot of ore dust.  Ore dust is a silent killer of flowers and trees. After a few years, the oak trees disappeared, and the buildings started to move in. All the new trees planted in Pittsburgh have a 20% chance of life after five years.
The main attraction in Oakland now is the University of Pittsburgh. Now, the streets are closed for every college basketball game that is played in Pittsburgh.  People would cut down every tree if it means getting the Pitt Panthers to the Final Four.
I still wonder why they call it Oakland. It would make more sense if it was called University City or something to that extent. The city revolves around its sports. Half of the stores were closed when the Steelers were playing at the Super Bowl. They recently built two new stadiums for the Penguins and Pirates, even though the Pirates shouldn’t count as a real baseball team. Now, it’s March Madness and the Panthers have a good shot to win it all. If they do, I’m sure they’ll build a bigger stadium for them as well.
Nature has to live around these things. I see birds building nests in letters of Hines Field.  Chipmunks get their food from popcorn after the Pens hockey game. Trees get climbed on when the Steelers win a game.
There are environmental groups in Pittsburgh trying to help nature, but it’s a losing cause. They try planting trees, but the trees can’t survive in this environment. The city wants to keep growing industrially. They want jobs. They want people. They want money. But until the economy picks up, all that Pittsburgh can count on are sports. Oakland will never return to its original form. These trees aren’t coming back, not unless people find the sport equivalency to ore dust.