Too busy for thoughts, but not for art. God bless us all.
Too busy for thoughts, but not for art. God bless us all.
2016 was not the most horrible of years, but it was one I’m not that very happy with. There are many celebrities who have died, but that’s all part of life, and I’m sure all years have their share of wonderful people dying that year. Personally, I happen to like Scott Weiland, but I can’t really blame 2016 for his death. There are disappointments over politics, but I believe the worst that the Trump election could be is still yet to come. He’s still a person with his own will and conscience. He can make the next four years good or as bad as people fear he would.
That and I have to remind myself that I am a Canadian. It doesn’t do me too much good to follow American politics too closely. I can disappoint myself with Canadian politics just as well. (Why did Trudeau have to approve that damned pipeline?)
I haven’t done too many art shows this year, but that’s a mixture of luck, with not many art shows coming my way, and with me not being as aggressive with my work. Work-wise, not much has changed. But I’m content where I am. I’m just glad I’m not struggling as many people are. And as for personal matters, I only have myself to blame for any failings last year.
I met a couple of scumbags last year too. Boy, were they scumbags!
As for good things, two nieces were born last year. My sister as well as my sister-in-law both had daughters. It’s good to see their families grow. My sisters are making sure their lives in North America are turning into a particular Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young song. My good friend, Alicia, visited me last year. We went to Japan with her and her boyfriend. It wasn’t without its bumps, but it was good to see one of my oldest friends. I happened to save someone who fell on the subway station while they were here too. I guess that’s something.
I also found one of the best beaches to go to last year.
Here’s hoping that 2017 would be better. So far, with Canada losing to the US in the Junior Hockey championship game yesterday, it’s not off to a good start. But perhaps that’s just an early glitch.
This year is the worst. I’m not just saying that because of politics and celebrities dying, but personally, the years have been getting worse and worse. Outside of my mother dying in 2008, this year has me most beat.
I feel like Paul Robeson on Showboat, “tired of living and scared of dying.”
This is my tribute to Gord Downie. It might not seem like it, but I’ve been putting a lot of Canadian-related imagery in my work lately. It doesn’t get more Canadian than the lead singer of the Tragically Hip.
More death. This is becoming a grim trend on my website entries. My estranged uncle passed away a few days ago. The funeral was just over the weekend. Our family had a rather curious relationship with him. My grandmother gave my mom the responsibility to watch over him. This was a task/burden she took to heart, and as we were growing up, she was always there to support him. At times, it got really rough, my uncle had a lot of demons, and it made it very hard to be on his side. But even when my mom was dying of cancer, she was still trying to support him.
When she died in 2008, our family made the decision to cut him off. My uncles and aunts didn’t. They still maintained contact with his kids and their mother. But we felt that we had to do it. We just had to move on with our lives, even if it unfortunately meant having no relationship with our cousins.
One of my cousins tried to make contact with me a couple of years ago, but unfortunately, time has made strangers out of us. That, and I’m really not that active on social media. It led nowhere. Just hellos and how are you doings. I had an opportunity to be decent and build a relationship with a relative, but I didn’t take it.
And now my uncle passed away, and I don’t know how to feel about it. I feel numb to the whole thing. I’m sad about everything, but a part of me feels that I really should be sadder, if that makes any sense. Perhaps it’s the Catholic guilt. My mom felt this huge responsibility towards her little brother, and I felt that I should continue with that tradition, but it just wasn’t in me. I’m sad and numb but not moved to anything else. Perhaps it’s because we’ve become strangers. Perhaps my memories of him had too many darker shades. But that not enough to justify being an unkind, unfeeling person.
I hope my cousins will do better soon. My heart goes out to them.
Interestingly, the time between learning that my uncle is gravely ill and hearing that he passed away happened in less than twenty four hours. He’s been ill for about a month, but the seriousness of the situation didn’t get to me until it was too late. Everything just happened to fast to process. What I noticed however is how people, especially those around me react to me talking about personal crisis by talking about their own crises. Not very helpful at all.
I try not to be too personal with people. I tend to be more candid when I’m writing here on the Internet. But when I talked to two of the closest people in my life about my uncle being terribly ill, they both talked about their own personal experiences and never got to talking about mine. One talked about an uncle she didn’t get along with, another talked about a father who recently had surgery. Forget about what I was trying to talk about in the first place.
Then a few hours later, I told both that my uncle passed away. Suddenly, it’s all about how I’m feeling and how sorry they are and wondering if I’m okay. Ironically, this is microcosm of how our family has neglected my cousins, and now that my uncle passed away, we’re all concerned about them. But ignore all of that for a second. Isn’t it odd how some people wouldn’t talk about your problems without talking about themselves first? And sometimes in the process, they never get back to talking about your problems.
Or maybe that’s just me. Maybe I just surround myself with self-centered people.
Saw the Tragically Hip play the last date of their Man Machine Poem tour online. Thank goodness for the CBC for streaming the show for free online, especially for expats like myself. It was a bit of an odd online experience, as I was watching and messaging to my friends online during the show. I imagine it was like that for many Canadians around the world, a collective experience for one of the greatest acts the world doesn’t know.
I’ve been listening to the Hip since I was a teenager and I saw them play in Winnipeg during their Phantom Power tour back in 98. I have always admired Gord Downie’s ability to meld the Canadian experience with history, grief, love and hope. I believe whoever wrote Prime Minister’s Trudeau said it best, “Gord Downie is a true original who has been writing Canada’s soundtrack for more than 30 years.” The band never exploded south of the border the way Canadian pop acts often do. They’ve done concerts, played in Woodstock, and was even featured in Saturday Night Live, but they just didn’t take off. The Tragically Hip was a band that it seems only Canadians truly got. I tried explaining this to my wife, and how acts like Avril Lavigne and Justin Bieber are not what Canada is about. And that often music acts like them take away from the soul of what is actually good and substantive Canadian music.
It was great to see the band play but ultimately it was sad knowing that this could very well be the last time Gord Downie plays with the band. Back in 2012, he talked about dealing with his wife’s breast cancer, and how it takes a toll not just on the person afflicted, but also to the people helping them through it. His wife recovered but her struggles have influenced the band’s album ‘Now For Plan A.’ And now Gord has been diagnosed with an aggressive terminal cancer. While the show was a celebration of the band’s history, it was also a sad farewell to a great artist. It was Canada saying goodbye to a dying man, a dying man that we love.
I still have not recovered from my mother dying from cancer. I can talk about the subject lightly and even joke about it now and then, but it is still a sore wound. I’m sure most people’s lives have been touched by the disease in one form or another. I myself have given up to the fact that I would probably die from cancer myself. The show over the weekend is a celebration of life in the face of inevitable death. However, it is also a reminder that cancer, death, will take away all of the beautiful things in life, all of them, and that we should appreciate them while we still have them.
Hug your loved ones, watch your favorite band, go out and play sports, do things while you still can. Love and appreciate things while you still have the chance. I guess that was the big take away from the weekend. And as a Canadian, I’m glad to have known the beauty that is the Tragically Hip.
You really missed out, America.
The beauty of being married is not being alone when you die. The thing is, if you don’t have children, that scenario is only possible for either you or your partner. Otherwise, one of you will spend a few years alone, missing your spouse, wondering if you’ll ever see each other again. Depression sets in, it reflects on your health. And if you don’t recover, life becomes a nightmare, and death, once feared, becomes the ultimate cure to your melancholy. This is why it is all too common that when half of an elderly couple passes, the other one soon follows. The years missing a beloved spouse can be a long, existential torture.
But worse still is the possibility that you’ll spend many years longer wondering why you got married in the first place, hating the familiar stranger you’re sharing your bedroom with.
As Hunter S. Thompson put it, “We are all alone, born alone, die alone, and—in spite of True Romance magazines—we shall all someday look back on our lives and see that, in spite of our company, we were alone the whole way. I do not say lonely—at least, not all the time—but essentially, and finally, alone. This is what makes your self-respect so important, and I don’t see how you can respect yourself if you must look in the hearts and minds of others for your happiness.”*
So I say to my beloved single friends, don’t give in to the pressures of marriage. If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. If you want someone to be there and witness you die, as morbid (and strangely primitive) a desire that may be, I will be there for you. Just don’t get married for fear of facing death in a room by yourself. Know that I will watch you pass away for the right reason. I will do it because I love you.
*It is worth noting that despite Hunter S. Thompson’s thoughts on finding happiness, he got married twice. It is also worth noting that he ended up committing suicide, while on the phone with his second wife.
A relative just died a couple of days during another relative’s funeral. See, it’s moments like this that keep me listening to Elliott Smith.
That right there is my problem. Instead of genuinely expressing grief over a loved one dying, I make a joke about Elliott Smith. Someone who wrote the most touching songs about depression, someone whose songs I still listen to to this day, and who he himself died of the most tragic circumstances. Two of my sisters called me about the tragic news, and I did it again, I reacted by making jokes, not about Elliott Smith, but I tried to be lighthearted about the situation nonetheless.
See if I come across a tragedy, I joke about it, don’t talk about it seriously, then I keep it bottled up inside until it gets all black as ink. Then later when it gets too much or when it hits me at a bad part of my day, it comes out through my art. Instead of processing things and talking about it like a normal, functional adult, I keep it inside… that or write entries about it in a site that won’t be seen by people who actually matter in my life. This is why when I asked, “was he sleeping?” after hearing an old relative died, the other person was not sure whether I was being serious or was it another set-up to a bad joke.
If everything is all smiles, no one gets it when you’re being serious.
Anyway, back to what happened. It’s really sad, but both people were a little older and though the first death was kind of expected, the other one, though I kinda expected due to his age, it took everyone by surprise due to circumstances. Death sucks. I realize that one should expect the passing of older people, but knowing this doesn’t make things any easier. I’m still grieving over my mother passing away. I can only imagine how others are feeling right about now. I know this gonna numb me for a while. I haven’t been that close with both people in the past few years, but both have been really there for me and my family back when we really needed their help. We kinda owe them. I owe them. And in the face of such kindness and generosity, the least I could do is feel really bad over their passing and take it a little bit more seriously. Listen to ‘Either/Or’ and just keep to myself.
An old friend from Canada and her Spanish boyfriend visited me this month. We were travelling all over Seoul, Osaka, and Kyoto for the past couple of weeks so I didn’t have much time to update my site. I would like to talk more about my vacation, but I feel like a more significant incident happened while we were waiting for the subway train in Seoul Station.
There was an unusually wide gap between the train and the platform we were in. A sign on the platform doors warned about this fact. But a woman ahead of us, much too focused on her phone, fell in between the gap as she was getting in. The lower half of her body was under the platform.
For a few seconds, everyone around her was in shock. Nobody, including me, was moving. These things just don’t happen, and it was unbelievable that it was happening at that moment. A woman was about to get horribly mutilated on a Friday afternoon.
Then I snapped out of it, grabbed the woman by her right arm pit and pulled her out of the gap. Then, my companions and I entered the train right before the door closed. She didn’t acknowledge what happened and just limped way and took the only free seat. I asked her if she’s okay in Korean, and she finally said “thank you” in English, and that was that.
All that time, her phone never left her hand.
My wife said that perhaps she was in shock, that’s why the woman just went to her seat and buried her face into her phone. I’m guessing it’s a mixture of shock and embarrassment. Now, while I’m glad that my guests from out of town were spared from an impromptu subway guillotine, and I kinda forgive the woman for acting rather nonchalant about the horrible fate that she just avoided, but I’m more annoyed about the precursor of the whole incident. People are not paying attention to their surroundings because of their phones!
It’s probably one of my biggest pet peeves. Sometimes you’re not looking, a passerby will knock it off your hand. It will fall and break, and ruin your day. But that’s one of the better outcomes. That phone will get you killed. It will get you in car accidents. It will get you falling off platforms. So please, STOP IT ALREADY! The modern day cellular phone has already killed table manners, polite conversation, encyclopedias, dictionaries, and the need to actually remember things and be competent in basic arithmetic. It will actually kill human beings as well. And last Friday, it nearly killed one in front of us.
I just hope that woman learned a lesson that day.
Musing on Japan, culture, and everything else later.
My grandmother on my mother’s side is currently in a nursing home in Hawaii. She hasn’t been well for years, and we received a bit of a scare over the weekend. Last I heard, she’s recovering and is under observation. A relief, but for a couple of hours there I wish I was swept with strange emotions, but honestly, I really didn’t know what to feel.
I love my grandmother dearly, but I haven’t really been the best grandson to her. The last time I saw her was over eight years ago, that was when my mother died. Even then, a part of me resented her presence at the hospital. I was thinking, “I realize you’re weak and all, but my mother is dying. Can we focus all of the attention on her?” My heart and my mind wasn’t in the right place. And I’m not sure if it recovered after that. She lived in Hawaii, far from me, so I barely thought about her. The years after my mom’s passing, our family’s gone through so much without my grandmother, that I can honestly say I only remember her in passing.
Which makes the weekend strange. I felt somewhat like a bastard, like someone who missed the train (or someone who will soon miss it), and will forever be much less because he missed it. Even though I was upset, I felt like I should be more upset than I was. And the thing is, I don’t know what I was upset about. Was I upset about her, or more about me and how I’ve behaved? Or maybe I was just upset at the passage of time. Eight years…. What happened in eight years? What the hell?!
My best memories of my grandmother, we called her Mommet, was growing up and visiting her house every Sunday after church. I used to hang out with her and my great grandmother. I would help my great grandmother sew by putting thread through needles. The house back then had this great garden with different fruit trees. Mommet’s garden even had sugar apples. My sisters and I would recall her trying to feed us lucuma (chesa or dien taw)and none of us liking it. Weirdly, it was the place where I first saw my first salamander. It was also the place where I first stepped on dog shit. When I was a bit older, I remember discovering the Beatles at my grandmother’s house, when I saw my mom’s old records.
The series of Virgin Mary sculptures I made were inspired by my Mommet’s bedroom. It had a shrine of Catholic saints. I thought it was very pretty, and I made my series of sculptures inspired by the colors as well as the stories behind each and every character on that shrine.
Mommet used to be a bigger part of our lives, until finally she wasn’t, until she was in Hawaii and I barely saw her. I suppose it was better for her. After all, who wouldn’t want to live in Hawaii? It’s just a shame that in the process, I ended up losing a strong relationship with my grandmother. I’m relieved to know that she’s still with us, although it would seem that I’m writing an entry as some sort of eulogy. I’m not. I’m just ranting. I guess if anything, this is more of a eulogy for the dead part of me that wasn’t reacting properly over the weekend… or perhaps it is a precursor to how I’ll be devastated when the inevitable finally comes.
Unhappiness is a Rat King that grows, tangles, and gnaws from the inside. It helps however to be distracted now and then, to smile and pretend you’re happy and content. A person can live like it’s not even there. You start getting used to it. It hollows you out as it eats your insides. But it also fills you up with its hairy warmth, despite its teeth and claws. The multiple hearts beating, the friction of fur on fur, the heat from the collecting feces, can be strange comfort sometimes. Like a hug coming from the inside. Life can be manageable with a Rat King.
Unfortunately, it would eventually grow too big and burst forth, grossing everyone out.
As it scurries off, and struggles to run away from the light, it’s a little difficult trying to be happy. Not only are you a hollow shell of your former self, but you’re also a disgusting, bloody corpse on the floor.