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.