cauliflowers and other tiny beautiful things

 I got my commuter card in the mail this week from work, and today I used it for the first time! I was so excited about it I even texted my friend. It's a silly thing to be excited about, considering that it's literally just a Visa prepaid debit card with my own money on it, the only benefit being I'm not taxed for money put on that debit card. But it still makes me happy, for reasons besides the few hundred dollars it'll save me in taxes that I cannot explain. (Maybe it makes me feel like the Responsible Independent Adult in the city that I always wanted to be.)

Back in college my friends and I would do things like leave amusement parks early to grocery shop and make healthy dinners together back at home. We're turning into our parents, we'd say, laughing, the irony of a bunch of teenagers complaining about getting old not lost on us. And I think for as much as I enjoyed a quiet night in with friends cooking and cleaning, I could always feel a part of me resisting, unwilling to let go of the crazy irresponsible hooligan inside which may not have ever even existed.

I think I've grown more at peace with the idea that I'll never have the wild years of a "misspent youth," as one of my old coworkers liked to say, that they're not for me. And with that acknowledgement I can more wholeheartedly appreciate how much easier it is for me to find joy in the smaller things. Yesterday while grocery shopping I bought a cauliflower for the first time, a vegetable I've always loved but never bothered to cook on my own because I hate getting the bits everywhere while cutting. I tried recreating one of my favorite NYC meals, Miznon's whole roasted baby cauliflower.

Predictably, it didn't quite go to plan. The cauliflower I bought was too big for my largest pot, which meant I had to keep turning it in the boiling water with tongs, and half an hour in the oven at 450 wasn't long enough for it to char. But I'm happy to say it still turned out delicious. I'm going back to the supermarket soon to buy another one (smaller, this time) to try again. Maybe this time it'll turn out better.

IMG_2597

Have you ever paid attention to how beautiful a cauliflower is? The pattern of the little florets in the center is mesmerizing.

yours, tiramisu

20 Jul 2024 at 22:09

crossover events

 IMG_2576

Yesterday was one of the best days I can remember.

I always enjoy what my friends and I like to call 'crossover events' — when friends from different circles/parts/times of your life meet for the first time — and they're a special treat when the friends in question are close to you. It's fascinating to see how people change in new company and how each new face teases out different facets of a personality, and it warms my heart when friends that just met discover things about each other that I didn't even know about. I'm going to show you some people I love, and I hope you see the parts of them I admire and find something you like about them too. And maybe, just maybe, you'll see their fingerprints all over me too.

All good things come at a price. I was already nursing my rapidly deteriorating voice yesterday and even thought about canceling plans. In retrospect I'm glad I didn't, but in spite of my best attempts to hydrate, rest my voice, and keep a cough drop perpetually in my mouth, this morning my voice was a raspy shadow of itself. It's going to make the apartment tours I have this weekend difficult, and I think I might even have to cancel or postpone some of my classes that start next week.

Mom caught wind of this news because she was copied on an email I sent to a broker warning them that I'd be hard to hear, and she texted me telling me to teach less. Which might be good advice if that's actually what caused me to lose my voice in the first place, but of course it's not (I've actually not taught much recently, this being my week off and all) and as usual she's not as interested in the trivial details like what actually happened or how I'm feeling as she is in jumping to conclusions and making her knee-jerk opinions known. But I digress.


I've been thinking a lot about this article I read recently about the Buddhist concept of seeing things as they are.

Most of us don’t notice impermanence until it’s shoved in our face. We’re too busy, too focused on having and doing. It’s an unusual person who senses the truth that underlies all our striving.

But at my back I always hear
Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying
near.

Poets notice things the rest of us miss, and they find words to bring what they notice to our attention, to overcome our blindness. Perhaps that’s one reason some of us like reading poetry: it reminds us of fundamental truths we would otherwise miss, and helps us adjust our lives accordingly.

Duhkha is something else, a far more subtle, all-pervasive dis-ease, a chronic discontent that underlies and infuses our constantly shifting experiences of pain and pleasure. As it happens, the very things that bring us the most happiness in life are themselves causes of duhkha, because they are tenuous, fragile, and ultimately subject to loss. This includes not only material things but also and especially our genuine accomplishments, the successes that bring us recognition and social status. And, perhaps most significantly, the company of people we love brings us duhkha, because we know full well that each one of them may, one way or another, leave us at any time.

Seeing things as they are.

This is not something I want to think about. And precisely for that reason, I find ways to not think about it: by staying busy with purposeful work, by immersing myself in entertainment and social games, and, ultimately, through the uniquely human capacity of denial. But denial, as Freud pointed out, exacts a psychological toll. It comes at the price of an all-pervasive anxiety that infects everything, making it impossible for us to experience any genuine happiness in life. This is the meaning of duhkha.

More reading on anicca, dukkha, anicca.

Highlights

Mama Fina's
167 Avenue A, New York, NY 10009

My friends and I love this place. We get the turon (sliced bananas wrapped in eggroll wrappers and fried until crispy and golden), the pork sisig, and the sinigang (sour soup with okra and green beans and pork or other meat). I exercised self control but let myself have a turon or three.

Curry House
9 Pell St, New York, NY 10013

Came back to this old favorite of mine yesterday with a friend visiting from out of town. I'm partial to the curry noodle with tofu, which comes with okay noodles and a LOT of tofu, and the chicken satay is delicious. My friend got the assam laksa, which wrinkled my nose and tasted uncomfortably of ketchup. We were not fans.

IMG_2567 IMG_2568 IMG_2569

yours, tiramisu

19 Jul 2024 at 18:40

goodbye to all that

 In my last post I didn't finish writing everything I wanted to say before hitting Publish. My posts often get broken up like this in my desire to publish fast and often; when I find a nice place to stop, I put a bow on my draft and send it out, lest I dawdle too long and kill my momentum.

That said, this post will be a continuation of sorts. Here are the rest of the thoughts inspired by Misha's post.

it feels like people are moving forward with their lives, but i’m still stuck at the same place i was when i was when i was 18, choosing a college degree that will change the trajectory of my life.

i had bigger dreams as a teenager. i wanted to do things—get out more; live a little differently than how my 15 year old self did. instead, i became the type of person who waits for her paycheck twice a month and does a little dance when it gets credited into her account.

instead, all i ended up becoming was nothing. i am still the same as i was when i was 15. i wonder if that’s a good thing?

The voice in my head isn't unkind enough to say I've turned out to be nothing, even if it might be more true than I want to admit, but the color of my thoughts takes the same hue. My friends are landing promotions, getting married, and buying houses while I work a second job to pay rent. (To sleep on the floor of a friend's apartment, mind you.)

When I find myself making negative comparisons like this I try my best to focus on what I'm proud of. I survived some difficult months the past few years. I found a job (two, actually) that I don't hate. I finally started writing regularly. I moved to a new city. And I did all that while my body crumbled and faltered.

(The other voice chimes in again. Are you sure these are even things to be proud of? Sure, you took some small steps forward, but first you took a BIG step backwards. But no matter — I've learned I can hear the other voices without listening to them.)

What scares me more than being stuck at the starting line is that I don't feel much desire to run the race at all. My parents are always urging me to work harder, to never be satisfied where I am. To climb the corporate ladder and invest in the stock market and get into real estate and start my own business. Last year when I showed her this blog Mom asked when I would write a book.

I can understand her mindset even if I don't share it. She had to leave her family behind, work three four jobs, and sacrifice years to get to where she is now, a comfortable house in the suburbs. To her this must be the right way, if not the only way to Babylon. But I'm so tired of being told to want more, of chasing after apparitions. I just want to enjoy life where I am for once. Why is it so taboo to admit not having goals? Is it because other people feel threatened when you don't share (validate) their desires?1

Life can be good when you have no desires, at least better than when you have unfulfilled desires. It's easier for me to enjoy the day to day when I'm not pining for things I don't have. But I also worry that one day I'll look back when I'm older and regret not having worked harder or suffered more. Mom says the regret won't hit me until I'm thirty and single and childless and renting and none of my friends want to spend time with me anymore because they're with their families in nice houses in the suburbs.

I worry sometimes that maybe my lack of ambition is a case of sour grapes, that I've deluded myself into thinking that I don't want these things when in reality I do and I'm simply not willing to pay the price for what it is I actually want. I don't know how to tell whether this is the case or not (how does anyone tell what they really want, anyway?), but if anyone has a clue do let me know.

chbaseball

  1. I am due for a refresher on the mimetic theory of desire, now that I think about it.

yours, tiramisu

17 Jul 2024 at 17:49

⭐️ i know love as a fading thing

 This post is inspired by Misha’s post a life lived diligently.

I started playing the piano when I was five. My first dream was to be a concert pianist like Lang Lang. I was drawn to the glitz and glamor of playing in cavernous concert halls to people in suits sitting on red velvet chairs. I let go of that dream a few years later when it became painfully apparent that I lacked both the talent and the dedication to fulfill it.

For a brief period after, I settled on a more realistic goal — playing the viola in a symphony orchestra. There were more orchestras than world-famous concert pianists, after all, and less violists than pianists to go around. I thought it a nice compromise between my childhood fantasies and reality.

Mom pulled the plug on my private lessons when I was seventeen, after college decisions were released. There’s no point in playing anymore, she said. You didn’t get into any Ivy League schools anyway. You’ve wasted your time practicing and you shouldn’t waste any more of it.

I was furious. For a while I even practiced more to spite her, locking myself into my room to run through Bach’s Cello Suites front to back. You started me on this as a child and pushed me to continue for so many years, and now that I finally get somewhere and enjoy it, you want me to quit just because it doesn’t serve a purpose anymore?

Of course anger never gets you anywhere. And since I couldn’t come up with the hundred something dollars they cost each week my lessons came to an abrupt end. Without the guidance of a teacher I slowly stopped playing and my skills faded away with my angst.

I’ve been scared to have dreams ever since, because I know how it feels to have to let them go, how it hurts to disappoint my younger self. I occasionally allow myself to fantasize about smaller things like where to live and who I’ll be with, but big things like what I’ll do and who I’ll be have largely faded from my mind.

In college I did keep trying on dreams half-heartedly, but none of them really fit. I couldn’t get myself to care about law or medicine or engineering like my friends did. I distrusted academia. And I knew there were decent corporate jobs out there but who aspires to work in corporate? That’s a goal, not a dream. No child dreams of working in middle management, of being another cog in the machine.

The only thing I found that made my heart sing after that was speaking Spanish, so I allowed myself to dream of living abroad in a Spanish-speaking country. I took a semester off from college to chase it, packing my stuff up for a job in the shadow of the Andes, and for once in my life something turned out to be everything I wanted it to be and more. (You think I’m happy in New York? You should have seen me then.)

I never did end up moving to Latin America or Europe, or even try very hard to do so for that matter. As much I tried to keep this dream away from my parents, the poison of their constant disapproval and discouragement seeped in. Maybe they were right, that the halo would fade with time, that it would be foolish and ungrateful for me to leave the first world for the second when they worked so hard to climb the other way. And just as I let go of my dreams of music, with each passing year I watch this dream slip further out of reach too. I put off the Fulbright and Peace Corps applications and apply to 'real' jobs instead.

I try not to beat myself up about it. Surviving and keeping a job has given me about as much as I can handle. But it’s been hard not to resent myself for letting down my inner child me so much. I noticed a few years ago his disappointment coloring the way I saw other people’s dreams. It wasn’t a pretty sight.

My dreams are much smaller now. You’re looking at one of them, this blog. Every once in a while I still absentmindedly try on fantasies I see laying around, but I can never keep them on for long. Each one reminds me of the ones gone with the wind and it hurts to think about them.

I too can feel something clawing and clawing at the bloody and worn down walls deep inside, yearning for a landscape long forgotten. It’s been such a permanent fixture of my life I forget not everyone feels this way. And I’m glad it exists, of course, because it means that somehow I haven’t yet killed little Misu inside that reaches out and wants things. It’s the same part of me that found me my current jobs, that got me to New York, that keeps me writing here as much as I do.

But I’m scared to look at him, to listen, to face him and hear what he’ll have to say.


Wrote this from 4:30 to 6 Tuesday morning. The title of this post comes from a song Eve shared with me.

yours, tiramisu

16 Jul 2024 at 11:02

where wouldn’t we go to be no one and those people again?

 Today is Monday. I went into the office today, the second of the six day minimum I need to work from the office each month. Since it doesn't matter how I choose to spread out these six days, I've decided that it makes the most financial sense for me to get these days knocked out all at once, to save money on subway fare. (The New York subway system charges $2.90 per ride up to a maximum of $34 a week.) And this week makes the most sense for me to come in because I have it "off" from teaching. (Off in quotations because while I'm not teaching group classes I still have to teach private lessons.)

Nobody comes into the office on Mondays. This particular Monday I also do not have a whole lot to do so I've been binge reading Henrik Karlsson's Substack Escaping Flatland. One of the benefits of going to the office and being bored out of my mind is that it's beneficial for writing and journaling and creativity in general. If I were working from home today I'd read a book or take a nap or call someone or cook or vacuum or exercise. In the office all I can really do is sit in this meeting room and read blog posts and listen to the voice in head. Hence this meandering wordvomit of a day's percolated thoughts.

The first Henrik passage that stood out to me comes from Talking to part of a friend:

When you meet old friends, there is sometimes a tendency to return to past versions of yourself, revisiting stale talking points, and reminiscing—and neither I nor my friends are particularly interested in that for more than an hour. This restlessness with the old gives our relationship the character of a puzzle. How are we going to make ourselves fit together this time? When we first met, we were in a similar space ... so there was a natural affinity. But since we left school, our lives have followed diverging trajectories. And the puzzle we face is: how do we find a new and authentic connection based on who we are now, not who we were in the past?

When I was in New York last summer I got lunch with a friend I was close to when I was elevenish, someone I consider one of my biggest influences growing up (in ways I can no longer articulate). Considering that we'd not had a proper conversation in over ten years, the conversation was pleasant enough, but it wasn't quite the kind of soul-affirming I feel seen stuff I remember from when we were that small, which I think disappointed me a little bit. It was apparent that we'd grown into very different people with vastly differing interests and that we no longer shared much common ground.

I've been mulling reaching out to her again to see what she's up to, but I haven't been able to put my finger on the flavor of my hesitation until now. I think maybe I'm struggling to accept that maybe we won't find this "new and authentic connection based on who we are now," that the friendship we shared as eleven twelve year olds is lost and irretrievable.

Part of me thinks, well, what do you have to lose? You know the conversation won't be bad, and it's nice to keep in touch with people that have known you for so long, and maybe, just maybe, there's a new close friendship hidden somewhere waiting to be discovered.

On the flipside, every once in a while I get lucky enough to meet someone with whom this new and authentic connection feels so natural, so easy, and the conversation flows so well and makes me think so deeply I forget to attend to basic life functions like paying attention to stoplights and instead I do things like walk into oncoming traffic. The feeling makes me want to maximize the amount of time I spend with people like this at all costs, including at the expense of these other friends with whom I lack this type of connection off the bat (like the aforementioned one).

I worry that doing this is unrealistic, because the overwhelming majority of people I meet don't share this type of connection with me, and I'm also afraid that I might reinforce blind spots in my friendships and self-image by avoiding talking to people with whom conversation doesn't flow like water. I wish I could articulate or at least have some vague idea to what these blind spots might be, but I suppose they're called blind spots for a reason.

Whenever two voices in my head jabber back and forth like this a third offers pointed commentary from the sidelines. Why am I analyzing the type of people I want to be friends with so much? Is it wrong for me to want a diverse group of friends? Shouldn't I just hang out with people that make me feel good, like a normal not-insane person?

This time, though, this third voice is weak. Because I feel a conviction deep down that these are the questions I need to be thinking about.

yours, tiramisu

16 Jul 2024 at 00:51



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