Thursday, January 31, 2013

demolition action

I'm in the business of creating things, buildings mostly but I occasionally create urban plans and developments.  If I am successful I am creating a better way of living; if not then I have just handed out fifty years of misery (that's the intended life span of most buildings these days).  I believe in sustainability, not just through environmentally friendly building designs but also by creating a building that is enjoyable enough to keep.  I've seen some so-called green buildings that are so criminally ugly that it would be a miracle if they lasted even ten years.

These days it is rare to build on "virgin" land.  I'm pretty happy about that because I like to resist sprawl.  It does happen, even in Hong Kong where you would think that everything has been built up already, and it presents a serious ethical issue to me.  I struggled a lot in my previous job with a project to develop a rural and history rich area in the New Territories into a transportation hub/new town.  Hong Kong is growing and there is a great need for (somewhat) affordable housing but the cost is that you are demolishing another way of life to make room for current needs.

Thankfully most architecture in Hong Kong involves redevelopment.  Something is demolished and replaced by another version that of itself on steroids.  Everyone wants to work in a high profile office building.  At the same time, the big, shiny, flashy office building needs to have an environmental rating.  We used to go by the US LEED rating system but it wasn't designed for places like Hong Kong and some of the local LEED rated buildings have podiums that block out light and ventilation to all the buildings behind them.  SARS anyone?  I am grateful to all of the environmental professionals who developed the Hong Kong BEAM system, which won't be handing out any plaques to buildings that overshadow the neighborhood.

Another wonderful consideration for a BEAM rating is how a project treats construction waste.  You can't just flatten an existing building and then start the rating process; your demolition practices are being graded as well.  In a place like Hong Kong where 20% of all waste intake is from construction materials, the ability to reuse and recycle demolition debris makes a big difference.

The other day I saw a video of Taisei Corporation's demolition process, called Taisei’s Ecological Reproduction System (TECOREP).  It focuses on disassembly rather than demolition and being Japanese, it is efficient, quiet, clean, and kinda perky.

The structure’s top floors are enclosed into a cap with temporary columns and jacks, and then the entire floor is dismantled.  This process is repeated floor by floor until the entire building is taken apart.  As demolition workers begin to disassemble the building from within, they use interior cranes to lower materials. After dismantling an entire floor, the jacks quietly lower the “cap” and the process is repeated.  According to TECOREP, the process also reduced noise levels by 17 to 23 decibels and cuts dust levels by as much as 90 percent.


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

running on fumes

I didn't have much exposure to alcohol when I was growing up.  My parents differed from their puritan neighbors by allowing my sister and me to sample their wine and beer during dinner but I wasn't so fond of the wine.  The beer was okay.  At the time I wasn't aware of the multitudes of choices because my father only stocked one kind of wine, an inexpensive jug of burgundy, and draft beer.

When I landed in the custody of my aunt and uncle, things changed.  My uncle considered himself a bit of a connoisseur and felt morally obligated to educate me on not only wine and beer, but liquor.  And Texas.  If he could add Texas to the lesson then it was ideal.  Among the many beers that I drank with him while we manned the grill was Shiner bock, a delicious dark lager produced by Spoetzl Brewery.  Almost every dinner included a glass of wine and I would be quizzed on what I liked and didn't like.  I discovered that I liked my reds to be spicy or peppery and my whites to be crisp.  I thought that most Cabernet Sauvignon tasted like dirt.

When my aunt and uncle took me sailing, we would drink gin and tonics.  To this day I can transport back to their boat if I close my eyes while sipping a gin and tonic.  I'm not sure if my preference to gin is because it tastes so good or because it holds such powerful memories.  When I moved to Hong Kong, the first thing I did was buy a bottle of Bombay Sapphire.  It was the preferred brand at my aunt and uncle's home, though they had a liquor cabinet to rival any hotel bar.  A few years ago when I tried Hendricks gin for the first time I was a bit heartbroken that my beloved uncle wasn't alive to share the experience.

As much as I like Bombay Sapphire, my favorite flavor was Tanqueray Malacca.  It was a bit too sweet for my aunt and uncle but I loved the grapefruit flavor.  Unfortunately it was discontinued after a four year run.  Then last week I found out that Tanqueray is going to release a limited run of Malacca (100,000 bottles) in February but it will only be available in the US, and various European countries.  SB has been instructed to keep his eye out for it during this last week in the US.  If he is successful you may not hear from me in a few days.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

in the bleak midwinter


A couple of SB's childhood friends joined him in the woods.  The temperatures had been well below freezing for a while and the lake ice was thick enough that they had a bonfire.  Having been raised in SE Asia, I have no confidence in the structural properties of ice.  I probably would have dragged a boat behind me and sat in it, just in case.  Which is why SB wasn't exactly dying to invite me to join him.


I never used to associate bleakness with beauty.  Usually a lack of something is a negative attribute but SB's photos of exposed vegetation and sparse forests devoid of color are beautiful.  I don't usually like the cold but at some point in the Adirondacks it gets so frigid that you experience the sublime.  You breathe in compressed breaths and all moisture in the air immediately freezes so that everything around you glistens as though silver glitter is fluttering in the air.  At these temperatures you aren't so cold because you have specialized clothing.  You need specialized clothing.


A couple years ago we spent my birthday up in the woods (that's what happens when SB does the planning).  Each day I would don thermal underwear and merino wool socks before slipping into a ski bib.  Then I would add a fleece pullover, followed by a weatherproof jacket and a ridiculous hat with ear protection.  Finally, and most importantly, I would lace up my extreme temperature snow boots.  Never make the mistake of skimping on good boots because it's very uncomfortable to walk around with cold, numb feet.  My lovely ensemble made me look like Elmer Fudd with a ponytail but it wasn't as though there was anyone out there to see me.  And if anyone was out there, they would look the same.  Everything around you might be sublime but you will be abominable.

Monday, January 28, 2013

locked up

On 26 January it became illegal in the United States to unlock a new mobile phone.  The Librarian of Congress determined that unlocking a phone was a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).  

Phone companies lock phones so that users can only use their networks.  The exchange is that the phones come at discounts, or so it is claimed.  When you buy a discounted phone, it is always attached to a lengthy contract.  The monthly charges for using a phone in the US are much higher than anywhere else I have lived.  I figured that this was because they were making up for the discounted phone price.  

When I went to study abroad my phone provider gave me the unlock code with my agreement that we would freeze my contract for the year and resume it when I returned.  I wonder if they would be charged with hacking if they did this now.

I thought that once you bought the phone, it was yours but apparently not.  Or if it's yours there are restrictions on what you can do with it?  I don't understand, but then there is a lot about the DMCA that I don't understand.  I suspect there is a lot that they don't understand either.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

the LOL heard round the world

This afternoon while cruising the internet (or interweb as SB's granny mistakenly yet accurately called it) I noticed a post on Facebook from a member of the rugby team that beat us last night.  Though it wasn't flattering on us, the vanquished team, I had to laugh out loud at either the girl's gall or her stupidity at not excluding me from the people who could view hew post.  So I wrote LOL in my comment box.

In the next half an hour I discovered how fast we can weave a digital web.  My comment made the post view-able to all of my friends.  Two rugby players from separate clubs also LOLed the post after me, thus making it view-able to their teammates.  And this is how a person flapping her gums in Carnegies started a social networking tsunami.


Saturday, January 26, 2013

two many

I had an uncle who was a bigamist.  No one had any idea until after he passed away and we got a grand surprise after the funeral.  I am still scratching my head at how he was able to pull it off.  SB and I spend more time away from each other than our relatives back in the States but it's not like either of us are ever completely free and clear.  Even with him in the middle of the woods I can manage contact every few days.  I would think that if he was living a double life, there would be enough unanswered phone calls or prolonged periods of silence to get my spidey senses tingling.

SB was driving for five hours on his way to New York City last night so I kept him company over the phone.  We went through many scenarios of how we might pull off a secret second marriage but most of them could never last for several years, much less several decades.  I have a few questions for my aunt but I won't ask them because they aren't very flattering.  Maybe my uncle told her that he worked for the secret service; that's the only explanation I've come up with.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Roasted Pumpkin with Balsamic Reduction


After being urged by my Australian friend to try her favorite breakfast cereal, I bought a box of Weetabix.  At first I thought that I was doing something wrong.  Was I supposed to toast it first?  As soon as I added milk it became a soggy, gloppy mess.  After consultation I discovered that this was how it was supposed to be.  But one person's gross is another person's gourmet.  Weetabix is great for those who have no teeth...or taste buds.  Ditto for Vegemite.  In fact, I started developing a hypothesis that because of the extremely hot weather in Australia, everything must be done at a slow rate to conserve energy, including development of taste buds. When Australians wake up in the morning, their taste buds don't yet wake up with them.  They gradually begin to arise and only peak late in the day.  That is why Australian breakfasts are so unpalatable while dinners are fantastic, and dessert is mind bending.

My Australian friend likes to entertain and her Sunday roasts are legendary in the neighborhood.  At the latest supper, another Australian showed up with roasted pumpkin.  I've had a bit of experience with pumpkin (my American friends refer to most pumpkins as squash) but usually in soup or as an unsavory savory.  I once tried to consume the innards of my jack-o-lantern and it was not pleasant.  This pumpkin was sweet and delicious.  I was told that it was a Jap pumpkin.  It was roasted along with beetroot and served with a blue cheese vinaigrette on a bed of arugula.


Yesterday I saw the medium sized, green skinned pumpkins in the market and bought one.  It is called Japanese or Kabocha.  I lugged it home and then spent a few minutes scratching my head as I wondered about the easiest way to dispatch it.  In the end I went after it with my chopper.  I roasted it and drizzled it with a balsamic reduction.  I thought the acidity of the balsamic vinegar was a good accompaniment with the sweetness of the pumpkin.  Then I consumed it (not the whole thing!) with a pan fried pork chop.  I like to eat something sweet with pork chops and have traditionally gone with apple sauce or a roasted apple but I think that roasted pumpkin is the way to go from here on out.

Roasted Pumpkin with Balsamic Reduction

1 Japanese pumpkin
3 tablespoons of olive oil (or artisanal oil if you prefer)
a pinch of salt (optional)
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

Preheat the oven to 400F (200C)

Cut the pumpkin in half and scrape out the seeds and guts.  Cut the pumpkin into segments approximately 1/4 inches (2 cm) wide.  Lay the slices on a roasting pan lined with parchment paper and lightly coat each side with oil.  I used a brush to dispense the oil but you can also lightly drizzle the oil over the slices and toss lightly.  Sprinkle salt over the top.


Place the roasting pan in the center of the oven and roast for 15 minutes.  Take out the pan and turn the slices over.  Roast for another 15 minutes or until the slices are slightly caramelized.

While the pumpkin is roasting...

Heat the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over medium heat until it begins to boil.  Lower the heat to low and simmer the balsamic vinegar until it reduces by at least half.  I like a syrupy reduction so I usually keep the vinegar simmering until only forty percent remains.  Be careful not to raise the heat beyond a simmer because it can burn the sauce.




Thursday, January 24, 2013

on literacy

Maybe I was too literal when I was a child because I never could get on board with the the R's.  They were to be understood as Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic, but I kept envisioning Reading and Riting, which made me wonder where spelling fit into our curriculum.

Here in Hong Kong I experience firsthand the limitations placed on a person who is uneducated.  I am illiterate; I can make out a few characters from memorization, much like an illiterate person learns to recognize certain words without being able to actually read them.  I have to ask SB or others for help.  At least Chinese people don't expect foreigners to know how to read characters so it isn't embarrassing to ask for help.

When I moved to Texas I had to retake the written portion of my driver's license exam.  I was the first person in the testing room to complete my exam so the examiner asked me to help out a woman who needed the exam to be read to her.  The woman was in her early thirties and had two young children in tow (who I hope are currently attending school).

It became very clear after the first few questions that this woman was not going to pass her exam.  I wondered if her inability to read meant that she also had no way to study for the exam.  She seemed to know what most traffic signs meant but she missed almost all of the questions pertaining to regulations such as the minimum requirement for insurance, or blood alcohol percentages for different charges.  I started placing a lot of emphasis on the correct answers when reading to her or asking her if she was certain of her answer when she chose incorrectly.  I knew that it was wrong but all I could think about was how limited she was, being unable to read, and how much worse it would be for her if she also could not drive herself to places that she needed to go.  Being without a car in a place like Texas places one at a huge socioeconomic disadvantage.

My attempts to gift her with answers were in vain.  She wasn't picking up on my cues and flunked the test in a spectacular fashion.  As I was waiting for my new license I saw her standing outside in the sweltering heat with her children, presumably waiting for someone to pick her up and drive her home.  Where I had been overjoyed to receive my very first license when I was a teenager, the experience picking up my Texas license was depressing.  I still think about that lady and hope that her life isn't as isolated as I imagine it must be.

Monday, January 21, 2013

blue

SB is considering delaying his return for the fourth time.  I will most likely miss spending my birthday with him, but I don't think that he remembers.  He's been in the woods for over a week and has been sending me images of his solo, metaphysical experience every few days when he goes into town for supplies and finds internet access.  It's almost like he has a filter on his phone's camera; everything is blue.  Nothing is stirring and silence becomes a sensation, almost tangible.

Last night it was -19F (-28C) and he tried to take me with him via the phone to hear the sounds on the lake that are caused by water freezing and ice expanding.  Unfortunately the house phone's range didn't make it past a couple of meters from the camp.  It has been a few years since I have experienced that kind of cold but from my recollection, the ice makes a groaning, creaking sound.  When he first took me out on the lake I was terrified that a crack was going to open up and swallow me.  He assured me that it doesn't happen that way and the ice was very thick except for the areas where springs fed into the lake. I still walked as though I was on eggshells.





 Of course because it is SB, food is part of the record


Friday, January 18, 2013

Etiquette

I have some questions for my local readers for best practices regarding lai see in the upcoming year.

  1. What is the going rate for weddings?  Obviously there is a range to consider and I have attended some really posh Chinese weddings as well as informal ones where hundreds of people show up and cram in at tables.  What do you think is the range of appropriate lai see gifting for weddings?  Should you give lai see if you don't attend?
  2. What would you advise for doormen, cleaners, and other people who work at a residence?  What would you give a doorman who opens doors and carries packages in a fancier estate versus the guy who sits by the door and stares at you in the simpler residence?
  3. How about a domestic helper?  Live-in versus nonresident?
  4. How about the servers at your favorite restaurant or local pub?
  5. What is the deal with married couples and single friends/colleagues?  I'm used to the going rate being 10 or 20 dollars but I have recently been informed that married couples are supposed to give larger amounts of money to close friends who are single to show how much they care or something like that.  Here's a wad of cash proportional to how much I value you since no one else does.
  6. Is there anyone that I'm missing?
Usually before a wedding banquet SB and I will ask a friend who is in the wedding party for advice.  We hope it isn't too weird or vulgar to ask for advice but we figure it is better than putting up an insulting gift.  One of my teammates bitched to me that her boss gave her a paltry amount that didn't cover the cost of the meal and then got a parking voucher that cost her another $100.  I would rather be remembered for asking than remembered for other reasons.  

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Friction with Fiction

Recently I was asked to review an unedited draft of a novel written by a friend.  Most of the other reviewers were writing their own books and so they also asked me to read their drafts.  I started noticing trends that were reducing my reading enjoyment and I would like to share them with all the budding authors out there.

Research, research, research
The dean of a hospitality school tells me that when his students are asked to prepare menus, he tells them to start with what they know.  He also tells me that the students often ignore his advice and so every semester, members of the faculty have to choke down inedible "gourmet" dishes, served with a side dish of humble pie.  Similarly, a few stories would have been better received if I wasn't distracted and irritated by the author's ignorance.  Lately tales involving special forces members have been all the rage. It would have been nice if the author I was reviewing had actually looked beyond Wikipedia for information.  His ex-special forces crime fighter was appropriately alpha male but somehow had missed on all the team building that I thought he would have received at some point in his SEAL training.  I also got a bit stabby when reading a chic lit that featured a football team.  It was beyond my acceptance of narrative license when this supposedly professional team had no problem with the heroine 1) entering the locker room and interrupting the pre-game chat to 2) deliver her own "inspiring" speech that 3) entirely changed the game plan and was 4) supposedly better than the coach's advice to his own players.  I would like to see a football team win with only one plan of attack, which they received five minutes before kickoff. Wait, no I wouldn't.

Fictitious fiction
As I mentioned above, I like a good tale but please don't ask me to suspend logic along with belief.  I can enjoy that Pi survived in a small boat with a bunch of predatory animals because of the story within the story.  I also enjoy science fiction because of its creativity within plausibility.  Heck, you can even get me to read fantasy as long as you remember that shifters, vampires and were-whatevers are sexy but don't ever try to make a zombie sexy.  However, if you make some ridiculous crap up or unleash an improbable set of coincidences because you are stuck on how to make some ends meet in the story, I will lose my plot upon your sorry plot.  There are exceptions to this warning but I haven't come across any good ones lately.

Hammering the point
This is the most common of all mistakes that I have observed.  Please have confidence that your reader can put two and two together.  If your character exclaims in distress, you really don't need to spend then next three sentences discussing that she is distressed.  I like to be able to discern the mood from dialogue or action.  And by dialogue, I do not mean internal dialogue.  Please do not present me with paragraphs of what the character is thinking.  Even in a first person narrative there are golden opportunities for subtle expression of intent that should not be wasted.  Almost all of my DNF (Did Not Finish) books were thrust aside after one too many instances of the author stating explicitly and verbosely exactly what a character was thinking/feeling/intuiting.

Every breath I take
Sometimes we get caught up in presenting a picture for the audience and we go beyond what is necessary.  Most readers enjoy descriptions of places and objects of interest.  If you have a historic setting, the (accurate) attention to detail can be greatly appreciated.  Please weave a beautiful image of the scene for me but keep it from becoming its own story.  An author whose characters bonded over Roethke got a bit carried away with talking about him with no relation to the rest of her story.  If she had tied in his biography to something regarding to the characters it would have made sense but instead I just got distracted from the story.  I have also read descriptions that have gone on and on..and on.  Ask yourself what the purpose is before committing a page to describing the virtues of your paragon.

The finish line
If you are like my former roommate, you have gone from an energetic start to your own personal hell. You have hit roadblocks, wrong turns and dead ends on you path to literary greatness.  You have been subsisting for months on coffee, cigarettes and booze.  And you smell funny because you aren't bathing regularly anymore.  But finally, you can see the end in sight.  You had planned this moment, where you would dig deep in your reserves and approach completion with steady strides and a photographic finish.  It would be a magnificent culmination of all your hard work and the crowd would go wild.  Instead you lose all composure and lurch frantically for the red tape, collapsing in the middle of the road where you are stretchered off.  Why, after building a compelling narrative, would you end it in a screeching finish?  Why??!!

Well, I hope that I have accomplished something beside airing my reviewer peeves.  My final recommendation is this: Margaret Atwood, when asked for advice by students at Cornell (that's for you, Ulie), replied, "Write every day no matter how awful you think it is."  Many other famous writers say the same and I agree wholeheartedly.  If you think my writing is drivel now you need only look at the beginning of this blog.  I figure in another couple decades years, I'll be ready to write my own story.  It might involve Navy SEALs who quote Roethke while rushing to end a mission.  There will be no internal dialogue.

Monday, January 14, 2013

JR

JR


In may ways, JR was larger than life. In the Adirondacks people talked about him like you would recall Paul Bunyan or Tom Sawyer. The tales were tall, often beginning with "on a dark, cold night in the woods" and frequently involved mishaps with motorized transportation.

JR was a character, remarkable and memorable. He could be very particular and set in his ways, and he would let you know just what he thought about anything and everything. He was also paradoxically inquisitive and open to other ideas as evidenced by his voracious consumption of books and travels far and wide.

It is hard to separate JR the man and JR the character; sometimes they were the same thing. From my own experiences with him I do know that he wrecked two cars on dark, cold nights; he was a superb sailor who plied his trade around the world; and his wide range of interests guaranteed that he and I shared quite a few lively debates.

JR the man was someone who didn't often speak about his emotions but he would wake up early to be one of the few spectators watching SB rowing in the Labor Day scull races. He drove great lengths to visit his children in school, which was a testament to his pride in them as well as to his particularity about modes of transportation. He had a long standing dislike of the airline industry and only grudgingly accepted my use of air travel although he made sure to terrify me with stories of poor airplane maintenance just hours before my flight back to Hong Kong.

I am heartbroken that his family has lost him. I hope that they may be comforted by all the stories and reminisces that we all have to offer them. I personally feel solidarity with his widow. My beloved SB is also quite a unique specimen. Sometimes you are the feet on the ground that allows him to fly, sometimes you are holding him up, and once in a while you lay flattened underneath him. But I wouldn't choose any other life. The adventures, the laughs, the love and the legend will keep JR afloat forever.

You can see the father in the son

Sunday, January 13, 2013

fear and loving in Verona

In high school AP psychology we covered a chapter that made comparisons about the ways different cultures express emotions.  While smiling indicated happiness across the globe, anger was shown differently.  Some people show anger with narrowed eyes while others show it with widened eyes.  What was most poignant about the lesson was not what I recognized, but what I didn't.  While I could match most facial expressions with their respective emotions, there were a few that stumped me.  My teacher told the class that the majority of children and teenagers are unable to recognize the look of fear  on others.  During the ensuing discussion regarding risky behavior in youths I realized that my classmates were able to recognize the expression of fear in the textbook while I still was not.  I was upset at the time because at the age of 15 I considered myself to be very mature, of course.

In our English class we were doing our mandatory reading of the classics: Chaucer's Canterbury Tales followed by Shakespeare's greatest hits.  While we loathed the tales (our senses of irony must not have been fully developed) we were all on board for Romeo and Juliet.  Our English teacher had chosen that particular play because it was going to be shown at the Shakespeare festival that year, though by the end of the reading I think she was second guessing herself.  Imagine a woman of a certain age (which made her a fossil in our eyes) trying to impress upon a group of teenagers how silly and immature our beloved tragic characters were.  No one wanted to hear her.  As we waxed poetic about the balcony scene and the declarations of undying love, she tried to counter by pointing how how foolish and overly dramatic the characters were being.  Since we were the same age as the two characters that she was savaging, we did not take well to her critiques.  I wonder if she took any comfort in the realization that the centuries old author's story of two teenagers in luuuuuuv still held strong resonance with the teenagers in her English class, who totally understood what it's like when adults just don't understand.

Upon reading Romeo and Juliet again after almost two decades, the story isn't quite so romantic but still strikes a chord in that teenage heart I have buried under the layers of years.  As my English teacher was trying to point out, the story is about two melodramatic teenagers who meet, fall in love/lust, and die in the span of about a week.  She might as well bang her head into a wall though because despite the facts, I still love the balcony scene and all of those highly emotional declarations of love and hatred.  As a teenager, emotions seem to be magnified to an nth degree with the exception of fear, which could have been useful a few times for those two.  Shakespeare sure knew how to tell a story.

In other news, Graeme Murphy's Romeo and Juliet is being shown on the Australia Network.  Kevin Jackson's backside is as lovely as Leonard Whiting's was in the film version.  Even that fossilized English teacher agreed that Romeo had a great butt.

Friday, January 11, 2013

happy daze

I stopped by the Park n Shop in Wanchai to pick up some groceries and was surprised to see that it seemed busier than usual (it was mid-afternoon).  In fact, not only was it busy but the crowd in the store seemed boisterous.  When I turned the corner into the drinks area I discovered why.  Several employees were handing out wine samples, and not in small cups but impressive quantities served in small wine glasses.  There was one white man in the crowd and as I passed him, I heard him joking with his colleague that they had been in there for over an hour.  They didn't appear to be in any hurry to get back to the office either, judging from their acceptance of another sample.  As I slowly made my way through the crowd I could hear the two of them discussing the subtle coffee essences of the sample.  I wanted to get a picture of a group of jovial old men with purple teeth, whose wine glasses were filled to the brim, but I was apprehensive about who might not want to be photographed while knocking back wine in the middle of a work day.  I had to make do with a quick snap of the less interesting tasters as I made my way around the corner.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

change

“When you're young, you think everything you do is disposable. You move from now to now, crumpling time up in your hands, tossing it away. You're your own speeding car. You think you can get rid of things, and people too—leave them behind. You don't yet know about the habit they have, of coming back.
 
Time in dreams is frozen. You can never get away from where you've been.”
                                                       - Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin

When I moved back to Hong Kong I knew that things would be different- you only needed to look at photographs to know that, boy, things had changed.  But somehow I still expected a comfortable sameness that no longer existed.  Buildings of my childhood were gone, objects that were so large in memory were in fact quite ordinary, and the present reality was a simulacrum of the past familiarity.  Even SB had changed in the year that we were apart.  He had a harder edge from working in his stressful, competitive environment and his youthful exuberance was replaced by something much more potent. 

I struggled to adapt to a changed landscape, to accept actuality over fantasy.  I had to relearn SB in many ways and I didn't always do so gracefully.  In our year apart SB had established himself in a new community while I was trying to catch up.  One day while I was wallowing in my self pity I realized how futile it was to try and cling to ghosts of things past.  I couldn't keep going the way I was, which was by trying to nudge SB back to what was familiar.  Times were changing, we were changing; only I was standing still and becoming obsolete. And so I had to start moving.

Five years later I can only be happy that I took those forward steps.  It's not like the alternative would have been so horrible.  I am fairly certain that had I returned to the US I would be living in a large city, much like Hong Kong, and working in a similar capacity to my job here.  I would still be playing and coaching rugby.  I would probably have picked up new interests similar to here.  I would have a larger home than this one here and would be much closer to my old friends and family.  But I wouldn't have SB, and he wouldn't have me.

Maddening, exhausting, and wrinkle inducing as he may be, he is my other half.  He is the apex of my adventures and my time with him is often the highlight of my day.  During this Hong Kong chapter of our lives we have learned how to match each other's stride while navigating the complex terrain of constant change and ghosts.  With each door that closes in this city, another one opens; we just need to take it all in stride.

Monday, January 7, 2013

wanting a restart

Well, 2013 has not gotten off to a great start.  SB's father passed away; it was unexpected by his family.  He had refused to share the results of his medical checkups with anyone so unfortunately they had to guess at his condition and were unprepared for this.  I had a better idea because my sister's job specializes in sarcoma. Even though SB's father wouldn't share his medical records with her, she could see the signs.  I was in an awkward position that I suspected what was going to happen but also knew that SB's father wanted to keep the information secret.  I didn't say anything, not even to SB.  I will have to live with my decision and all the hindsight implications but on the other hand if my guesses had been wrong I would have caused a lot of undue angst and worry.  I hoped to be wrong.

SB doesn't want me to join him for the funeral and rest of his stay.  He doesn't want me to offer comfort and I have to respect that even though I think that he is handling this weirdly, but I often think that I know better.  He has decided to spend the week in NYC with childhood friends so at least he is with people who grew up with him and know his family.  He will return to Elmira only for the funeral and then take off again.

When my uncle died, my cousin told me that he was grateful that his father kept the family close.  His mother had succumbed to breast cancer two years previously and he described her demise as similar to a dog crawling under a porch to die.  She was bitter about the diagnosis and depressed at how she looked, and so she literally locked her door and cut off all communication with her children and grandchildren.

I have a lot that I want to say but I need to respect SB's privacy; there are a lot of unresolved issues that I won't unleash.  All we can do is look forward and keep moving.