Friday, April 23, 2010

Matcha Tea

Strange.

Matcha green tea.

That experience, that flavor, that texture in matcha green tea was how she would describe the situation later.

And not the cheap matcha green tea either, with its bland, purposely inoffensive front flavor and its mild but still unpleasant graininess.

But the good stuff - stuff with tonality, richness, narrative, depth.

It was really the subtlety that caught her off-guard, since work always seemed to be about going from extreme to extreme.  Lay-offs, a boss chewing out a subordinate, heinously inappropriate emotional outbursts: those experiences physically gave her a sharp twisting pain in her lower abdomen.  On the other hand, finishing a successful project, connecting honestly with a co-worker, getting earnest praise from someone she respected.  She felt those in her neck and upper back, feelings that would amp up to an almost violent, electric trembling, depending on the level of her satisfaction.

But this.

The respective parties had arrived with the sole purpose of socializing with each other. 

No.  That wasn't it.  She had been to relaxed get-togethers before.

It was as if everyone had agreed to pre-freeze their respective Saturday afternoons into large ice cubes and were now sumptuously bathing in their shimmering, ice-time-melt.  Hmm, she might have to work on that metaphor.  Never my strength, she thought.

But the point was that the atmosphere simply felt luxurious. 

She leaned back in her lawn chair and rolled her tongue over her teeth. 

A wide-eyed sun hugged her cheeks, chin and nose in that order.

She swore she could even taste that oh-so-slight grainy texture in her mouth. 

The gentle burps and blorps of the sloshing shifting pool water lightly resonated in her ears.

She closed her eyes.

And at that very moment, a memory of Lacey, her elegant, doting dog, who had for so many years, represented the pinnacle of tranquility and who had passed five years ago, violently broke through her conscience.

She sat up, tapping on her left knee with her pinky finger, slightly annoyed at the jarring redirection of what she had expected to be the narrative of the day.  But she knew it was for the best.  It was time for her to search for a new dog.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Bathroom Discussion

It was coming.

Keep it together, Paul!  Pause your story about doubling the revenues. Hold your breath. Thumb your nose a bit. 

Shit, still no good.

"As you know, the entire industry was struggling with how to increase demand..."

See if you can sniff it back. Sniff!

"and..."

Ooh, still coming.

"... I admit at first I was stumped too..."

Sniff, sniff.

"..."

Sniff.

Paul, not too much!  You'll look like you're some kind of cocaine user!

"but at one point, I had a headache and glanced at the instructions on the Tylenol..."

*It* was oozing down.

"The instructions said to..."

Slowly at first.

"... and I thought, wouldn't it be great if we could double our demand..."

Picking up speed now.

"... couldn't double the actual usage amount..."

Oh God.

"... but we could convince consumers to..."

Oh God, no.  

"...and that's how I came up with Lather, Rinse annn..."

Ahhhhhh choooooooooo!


...

There was a tangible silence, as if a giant sponge had filled the room.

Paul slowly opened his eyes.  The sight was one of violence.

The blood that had been slowly making its way down his nostril had exploded past his much-too-late hand, across the desk and had speckled the impeccable white shirt and circular glasses of his interviewer, Mr. Johnson.

Paul gaped his mouth open a bit, like a fish gasping for air, and would have continued in that fashion, if there had not been still more blood trickling down from his nose.

"Oh dear, would you happen to have a Kleenex?"

Monday, April 12, 2010

Swiss Cheese

There was a look of quiet desperation in his eyes. Phil could get seriously insecure at moments like this.

"Please tell me what's so funny."

Dell held back laughing more, but her laughter trickled through into the crinkles of her smiling eyes.

"I'll tell you later. It was a funny joke at the office."

"So you're not laughing at me?"

"No."

When in fact she was, there was a piece of bread that had managed to somehow get caught on his budding goatee.

And strangely, with that piece of bread stuck there, Phil reminded her of a big wheel of cheese.

Swiss, specifically.

And every time he talked, all she could imagine was Phil's face, complete with goatee, plastered on top of a gigantic wheel of swiss cheese, yammering on like on some surreal combination of a late-night tv comedy show and Sesame Street.

Five days later, the bread piece had been taken out, yet Dell still could not get the mental image out of her head.

She swore she could even smell cheese whenever he came into the room.

The absolute worst was when they were making love. Having a bloody wheel of cheese huffing and puffing and sweating on top of her, it wasn't just a turn-off, it was just completely unbearable.

Two days later, she broke up with him. She gave him the "it's not you, it's me" line.

Walking away, she really could not tell whether she was lying or not.

Phil's intricate cheese break-up strategy had worked beyond his wildest dreams.

City Surprise

Jim hungrily looked around for a shimmer of curiosity in the eyes of the strangers passing by in their expensive Armani suits and organic snake-skin shoes that were so trendy these days.

But no such luck.

At best, they might just steal a puzzled glance downwards and quickly resume their purposeful walking away.

It was a good thing Jim was so patient.

He knew, eventually, one of them would come. They just wouldn't be able to resist. They just had to figure out what that puzzling triangular gray object was.

And just as they leaned over, right at that exact moment that they would lose their balance if something surprised them, he would jump into action.

Bam! A blur of white and gray! A splash of water!

So inhumanly quick that bystanders would look at each other and ask themselves what had just happened!

And it would be all explained by the newspaper the next day, with a headline in bold that read:

Sewer Shark Claims Another Victim!

The Lone Lit Window

Out for my evening stroll, I glanced upwards at the one lone window, lit among all of the ones sleeping.

Inside the rectangular frame, something shifted.

I squinted.

It was then I realized that I was looking at the full moon.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Kafka on the Shore : Haruki Murakami

Kafka on the Shore
By Haruki Murakami

I really enjoy reading Murakami books and while I found myself once again addicted to this one and flipping page after page, I did try my best to take a bit of time to analyze this one.

A few observations:

A number of Murakami's characters are introspective, interjecting random comments like the following:
Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions.  You change direction but the sandstorm chases you.  You turn again, but the storm adjusts.  Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn.  Why?  Because this storm isn't something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you.  This storm is you.  Something inside of you.  So all you can do is give in to it, step right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand doesn't get in, and walk through it, step by step.
They split hairs about the nature of people:
People soon get tired of things that aren't boring, but not of what is boring. Go figure. For me, I might have the leisure to be bored, but not to grow tired of something.  Most people can't distinguish between the two.
Murakami tends to feature passive, cool-headed characters who wait, go with the flow and see how things turn out.  Frequently, there's a sense of powerlessness to mysterious, greater forces, which I think is what drives the pace of the book so quickly.  It's almost like the show, Lost; you always are hoping the each successive page will clear up what these mysterious forces are.
... the stars are like the trees in the forest, alive and breathing.  And they're watching me. What Ive done up till now, what I'm going to do - the know it all.  Nothing gets past their watchful eyes.  As I sit there under teh shining nigh sky, again a violent fear takes hold of me.  My heart's pounding a mile a minute, and I can barely breathe.  All these millions of stars looking down on me, and I've never given them more than a passing thought before.  Not just stars - how many other things haven't I noticed in the world, things I know nothing about?  I suddenly feel helpless, completely powerless. And I know I'll never outrun that awful feeling.  
He also adds to this by putting in two separate narrative threads and having them come together at the end, which unlike some of his earlier novels actually comes to a more concrete resolution and which actually was a bit of a disappointment in its tidyness after so much buildup.

One last thing, again in this novel, there is the missing female character, this time a missing mother.  I keep on wondering what it is about these female characters gone missing that attracts Murakami so much?

Anyhow, despite the ending, I did enjoy this one.  I think I managed to prolong its reading to 2 days, instead of the drop-everything-finish-it-in-one-sitting type deals.

Once a Runner : John L Parker Jr.

Once a Runner
by John L Parker Jr.

Loved this one.

This is a fictional story, but was written but a guy who got pretty far along in the US track and field system and who run with some of the best runners of the time, so it paints a pretty accurate mental picture of the minds of competitive runners.

Also its depiction of the running team atmosphere was pretty spot-on, reminding me a lot of my high-school cross-country experience.  Lastly, it touches upon some of the backward mentality of the south, which while I don't see quite that directly in Atlanta, can understand it better here.

Anyways, I will probably re-read this in the future.